It could be argued that India ideally should have won the first Test.
But we would be over-reaching ourselves if we saddle M.S. Dhoni’s men with that expectation. The truth is, India played out of its skin in this match, competed on level terms with the No.1 team in the world, braved all odds, bucked all pre-match predictions and was willing to last the good-fight.
You cannot ask for more from a team that has lost its golden generation to the vagaries of age and is now busy testing its young talent. This team has belief.
It may not consistently pull off nerve-shredders like the one it did at the Wanderers Stadium, surely it will lose a few games just as it wins but in terms of effort, India cannot be faulted.
Hungry for success
Virat Kohli, expressive with the bat as well as words, talked about the resilience that resides within him and his teammates: “Every single person in this team is hungry to go out there and win a game for their country and their team and that is the biggest factor that has changed the way we played in the last one year.
“Everyone is hungry and desperate to go out there and perform and win from any situation.
“That’s what this team believes in, that we can win from any situation.
“We have done that before, we came back in the West Indies when we were down and out. Give us any situation and we will look to a way to come out of it and if we are dominating, we will keep dominating. “I think it is a group of smart cricketers who are inexperienced but who are very desperate to go out and perform.”
It helps that the squad is helmed by perhaps the calmest skipper in the globe and it was a truism that Kohli is acutely aware of. “It was a pretty tough situation to be in and I feel sorry for the captain who is in that sort of situation and you know M.S. (Dhoni) was pretty good in handling that and that’s his biggest quality, his calmness in those situations and, yeah, he never let the guys believe that things are going into a desperate mode. He kept the guys pretty calm,” Kohli said.
Post-mortems tend to seek flaws but it is a fact that the South African batsmen A.B. de Villiers and Faf du Plessis played two of the finest fire-fighting innings you could ever see.
When knives were mildly and needlessly sharpened against the Indian bowlers in the post-match press conference, Kohli was quick to lend perspective: “It was not easy when Faf and AB were batting, it was a fifth day’s wicket and R. Ashwin was getting a bit of bounce and a bit of turn when they were batting but I think for the fast bowlers it was difficult.
“I think they bowled pretty well throughout this Test match. They kept attacking the stumps, if you see, there were so many edges falling to the right or left of the fielder, so many inside-edges missing the stumps. I think we bowled well but we got to accept that those two guys batted brilliantly. They showed a lot of character and that is why they are the No.1 side in the world. I don’t think we bowled badly at all.”
A fresh start has been made in a tough terrain. Yes, the Indian team is a work in progress, but from what it revealed in the first Test, the signs are pleasant and augur well for the team.