After a strong start in the first Test, India quickly fell away and lost another home Test series. With their bowling attack, India looked set to compete for their first series win in South Africa, but a few issues affected them through the series
The middle-order consists of stalwarts like Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane. All three are talented players and have won India some key matches in the past. The form of the three though has been a question, and in this series, they were inconsistent throughout, leaving India with an under-confident batting line-up. With Hanuma Vihari and Shreyas Iyer in the background, the Indian Teamcould try some new players against Sri Lanka, and allow them to gain experience before the next overseas tour.
The presence of Ravindra Jadeja allows India the license to bat deeper, with a solid player coming in at six or seven. In Jadeja’s absence though, Ashwin had to bat higher. Ashwin has played at six in the past, but his batting form is wavering, and the team had to play with Shardul Thakur and Ashwin batting higher than desired. Another drawback was Jadeja’s economic bowling. While Ashwin is a better bowler, Jadeja’s ability to hold one end up is second to none, and that was missed.
In England and Australia, the bowlers bailed India out but they couldn’t do the same here. With Siraj injured, India lost a bowler who brings a fiery attitude. To add to his injury, the natural composition of the side was an issue. The bowlers are on the shorter side when compared to their South African counterparts, who are above six feet, and can use the extra bounce to a greater advantage.
With taller bowlers, the release points of the South African bowlers allowed them to use the uneven bounce more effectively.
In the second Test South Africa needed 240 and in the third they needed 212 to win. The targets are defendable, but one can always question the safety of such targets. In both cases, India may have felt a good forty or fifty runs short given the positions they were in. The shot selection in both cases remains an issue as India left a good amount of runs out there. With the a small batting line-up, the runs couldn’t come through confidently leaving the team with
The bowlers looked to target the stumps, which is often a useful tactic as it allowed the team to look for more bowled and lbw dismissals. However, the tactic could lead to runs as balls could be pitched in drivable lengths, and with little to defend, India were in trouble using such lengths. Adjusting to a shorter length proved to be a challenge, and struggled to match South Africa with their lengths.