Editorial

Unconquered: On India’s Test series loss to South Africa

Sport throws up surprises and cricket is not immune to it. The latest twist transpired at Cape Town’s Newlands where South Africa registered a seven-wicket victory in the third Test and won the series 2-1 against India. In recent cricketing history, this was a script-altering moment. India was the fancied team even if it missed the injured duo of Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja. Virat Kohli’s men had a swagger gained from defeating Australia in its backyard and leading 2-1 over England in an unfinished series at the Old Blighty. The loss to New Zealand in the World Test Championship final was deemed an aberration. This squad had quality batters, fearsome pacers, Rishabh Pant’s x-factor and R. Ashwin’s guile. In contrast, South Africa was in transition and after the first Test loss at Centurion , Quinton de Kock prematurely retired. Leading 1-0, India was expected to twist the knife in and win the series, an accomplishment that eluded it since the maiden tour of South Africa in 1992-93. South Africa remains India’s Final Frontier and when the dust settled at Newlands on Friday with the nearby Table Mountain casting a shadow, the host had the last word, having ambushed India in consecutive Tests. Dean Elgar’s men triumphed in the second Test at Johannesburg and extended that winning habit into Newlands while the Indians were sore losers.

The manner in which Kohli and Company reacted after an LBW appeal was negated through the Decision Review System, was obnoxious. Elgar survived against Ashwin and Kohli set a poor example with his antics before the stump microphone, a trait that a few wrongly emulated. South Africa won because Elgar and Keegan Petersen bolstered the top-order while speedsters Kagiso Rabada and Marco Jansen bowled sharp. Over two seasons India coped with a fragile middle-order. Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and Kohli have not flourished, though the last-named hinted at having turned a corner with a 79 in the last Test. But time is running out for Pujara and Rahane, especially after the latest series average of 20.67 and 22.67, respectively. Pant’s splendid hundred proved inadequate as his acclaimed colleagues flattered to deceive. Defending meagre 200-plus targets can test the finest bowling attacks and Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami had an unenviable task. India has to strengthen its batting and improve its on-field demeanour. Above all, a Test captaincy change has been forced after Kohli stepped down on Saturday. Perhaps the latest result precipitated his decision, marking the end of a leadership era. Having taken charge in 2014, Kohli became India’s most successful leader in the longest format with 40 triumphs from 68 matches. Rohit may be the successor, but before that the three ODIs against South Africa beckon.


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Printable version | May 19, 2022 10:32:19 am | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/unconquered-the-hindu-editorial-on-indias-test-series-loss-to-south-africa/article38279420.ece