After the high-scoring start to the India-South Africa series at Dharamsala, the teams will now head to Cuttack for the second T20, a game India must win to stay alive in the T20 series. At Dharamsala, India lost rather easily in spite of Rohit Sharma’s spectacular hundred, which helped the hosts set the Proteas a target of 200. While the dew was undoubtedly a factor, India must still be disappointed since they should have fancied their chances of defending the big score in spite of the tough conditions. Their bowlers should have come up with a better effort on the day.
Looking back at the result, India’s inexperienced in the bowling hurt them. The lack of pace in the attack was also a factor. Sreenath Aravind made a forgettable debut. He would have been nervous as expected, and South Africa took full advantage of the situation. The performances of the more experienced Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohit Sharma were highly disappointing. They could not get the balls in the right place, and were punished severely. As mentioned early, the conditions did not aid them. But, as Ravichandran Ashwin proved, it was not impossible to bowl well on the surface.
We can expect some changes in the Indian bowling line-up for the next game. The selection of Axar Patel over the in-form leggie Amit Mishra for the first match was puzzling even if one takes into account the fact that the former is a better fielder and, perhaps, a better batting choice in the format. But, Patel has been struggling in international matches for a while now. It might be too harsh on Aravind, but in their best endeavour to stay alive, India may choose to go in with Stuart Binny, who offers the greater value with the bat as well.
There isn’t much that can be faulted about India’s batting effort at Dharamsala, but a closer analysis will lead to the conclusion that they lost out on a few crucial runs towards the end. The partnership between Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli was brilliant, but once they were separated, India could not march on. Although MS Dhoni finished off the innings with a mighty six, he played too many dot balls in between. It has been a while since Dhoni has played a fluent innings so that definitely should be a matter of worry for the Indians.
South Africa will go into the match high on confidence following their wonderful chase at Dharamsala. JP Duminy proved why he is such a dangerous customer with a knock that literally knocked out India. What South Africa did better than India in the match is that they never lost the momentum. AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla got the team off to a terrific start. And, although skipper Faf du Plessis fell early, Duminy kept South Africa in the hunt, with good support from Farhaan Behardien. Like India, they too need to work on their bowling, though.
--By A Cricket Analyst