Unkept promise: On India’s quest for a Test series win in South Africa

India is yet to beat South Africa in an away Test series 

Updated - January 06, 2024 09:50 am IST

Published - January 06, 2024 12:10 am IST

India’s quest for a Test series win in South Africa remains an unfulfilled dream. Right from the 1992-93 tour when Nelson Mandela met Mohammad Azharuddin’s men to the latest stint, India brimmed with confidence but was fated to return empty-handed. The latest tryst in whites culminated in a 1-1 stalemate even if all talk will revolve around the second game at Cape Town’s Newlands being the shortest ever Test at a mere 642 deliveries and concluding well within two days. In a contest of excruciatingly small margins, Rohit Sharma’s men prevailed with a seven-wicket victory with speedsters Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj being the wreckers-in-chief of the South African line-up. But having lost the earlier first Test, India could only end up drawing level in the series. The Newlands surface with erratic bounce and adequate juice for the seamers to excel, tested the very best of willow wielders. It is also a credit to K.L. Rahul, Dean Elgar and Aiden Markram, for having scored tons through the two-Test series that was essentially a showcase for the very best of fast bowling skills, the kind that Kagiso Rabada and Bumrah exhibited. In a short-form embracing cricketing world, Tests not lasting five days is a cause for worry and it also reveals a waning of batting skills.

Elgar, who just retired, or a Cheteshwar Pujara, are all part of a dwindling breed of batters, who could stay long at the pitch. The current trend resting on a muscular approach makes for exhilarating viewing but when batting line-ups collapse, it is equally disconcerting. In the larger scheme, India drew the T20s at 1-1 and won the ODI series at 2-1, which became the prelude to the Tests. Suryakumar Yadav and Rahul led in the T20s and ODIs, respectively, while Rohit turned up as the leader in Tests. In a year that features Tests against the visiting Englishmen besides the ICC T20 World Cup in the Caribbean and United States, India is still figuring out the diverse building blocks for the three formats. Rishabh Pant’s absence forced the management to make Rahul don the wicket-keeping gloves in Tests. However, it is never an ideal long-term strategy. Rohit, Virat Kohli, R. Ashwin and R. Jadeja, are all hovering around the mid to late thirties mark, and their gradual walk towards the twilight seems inevitable. There are injury woes too like the one that kept Mohammed Shami out of the team. And as the squad boards the return flight to India, the tale is about yet another South African tour, that promised much and yielded little.

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