India’s spinners, middle-order proved to be major roadblocks in Paarl ODI
South Africa, after hammering India by a 2-1 margin to win the Freedom Trophy 2021-22 and thereby keeping their 29-year-old unbeaten record at home intact in Test series, are up against the Asian country in a three-match ODI series. The first One-Day International (ODI) game saw the hosts getting the better of the tourists by 31 runs.
Winning the toss, South Africa captain, Temba Bavuma elected to bat first on a track which was expected to slow down as the game would progress. India began the game on a right note picking up wickets at regular intervals and reduced the Proteas to 68-3 in the 18th over; although, since then shouldering on a mammoth 204-run partnership between captain Bavuma and Rassie van der Dussen, where both scored their individual centuries, South Africa reached 296-4 in the allotted 50 overs.
Even after appearing so comfortable in the chase, India kept losing wickets in the latter part of their innings and at last found themselves 31 runs short of the target.
Let’s take a look at what went wrong for India in the game
Not utilizing Venkatesh Iyer properly
There had been so much talk on the eve of the game about the Indian playing eleven; whether they would go with an extra batter, Suryakumar Yadav, or pick an all-rounder, someone like Venkatesh Iyer who could provide around 5-6 overs of medium pace if the main bowlers weren’t having a great day. The visitors gave Venkatesh his debut ODI cap. But as mentioned earlier, South Africa after being reduced to 68-3 in the 18th over, went on to add 204 runs in the next 30 overs.
In spite of not picking up wickets or drying up runs in an aim to break the Bavuma-Van der Dussen partnership, India captain KL Rahul didn’t show any interest to throw the ball to Iyer which felt so weird as a viewer. “Fast bowlers were mostly used at the end,” Shikhar Dhawan explained the reason after the match.
“In the middle-overs when the wickets were not coming, our thinking was to bring back the main bowlers to get a breakthrough but we couldn’t do that,” he added.
Even though, the question still remains that why India didn’t use Venkatesh Iyer, the medium pacer.
No impact of Indian Spinners
Figures of 106-1 in 20-overs at 5.30 runs per over with no maiden overs is what the Indian spinners, Ravichandran Ashwin and Yuzvendra Chahal, returned while South African spinners - Tabraiz Shamsi, Keshav Maharaj and part-timer Aiden Markram - jointly finished with 5-120 in 25-overs at 4.80 runs per over. The host spinners too dismissed the Indian top-three and dried up the runs in the middle overs to build pressure on the Indian batting line-up.
Four years back in 2018 when India earned victory in a six-match ODI series in South Africa by a huge margin of 5-1, the main weapon for them was their spin bowling arsenal. Chahal had bagged 16 wickets at an average of 16.38 while Kuldeep Yadav gabbed 17 wickets at 13.88. Even though in 2022, in Paarl, during the first ODI, they didn’t go for many runs but not picking up wickets allowed the opposition to keep the run flow intact and attack the other bowlers.
India didn’t pick a wicket from the 20th to 40th over
Not picking a wicket for about more than 20 overs in the middle phase of the first innings seemed to be the main reason for India’s loss at Boland Park. The spinners failed to dismiss either Temba Bavuma or Rassie van der Dussen, who after getting set on the slow track, piled up so many runs in the back innings to get South Africa to a formidable total of 296.
India’s middle-order muddle
The 31-run difference at the end neither conveys an accurate picture of the game nor clarifies the situation for the observers. India were at the halfway mark of the chase at 137-1 with two giants of the format, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli, both looking solid on a 22-yard strip that hardly raised any problem for them. But the tourists got off-track after they lost Dhawan, who had stroked an expressive 79, dismissed by a quick Keshav Maharaj delivery from the rough.
Since the end of the 92-run partnership, India never recovered and lost the plot. After Virat Kohli was undone by Tabraiz Shamsi, the middle-order consisting of Rishabh Pant, Shreyas Iyer, Venkatesh Iyer and Ravichandran Ashwin struggled in their brief stay at the crease.
It wasn’t the first time and might not be the last time, that India were having their problems with number 4 in ODIs. The Indian top-order failed to do what the home side did so well, i.e., managing huge scores after getting set. Even though Dhawan trusted that the middle-order would learn from their mistakes going forward. “When you are chasing 300-plus totals, it isn’t easy to come out and start hitting on such a surface,” Dhawan briefed about India losing 7 wickets for 76-runs. “And when we lost a lot of wickets in a cluster, it did have an impact on the result,” he added.
What India should look to do in the 2nd ODI
Now after a day’s break, India will look to level up in the series on the same ground. They should rectify few of their mistakes from the first game.
The batter who has been set in the middle should try to go big and make it easier for the upcoming batters in a less experienced middle-order. It is the responsibility of the top three to either bat deep in the innings or go faster than the asking rate.
India have to find a way to use their sixth bowling option on tough days and especially in those games where they can experiment, thereby erasing any such headaches in qualifying for the 2023 ODI World Cup.
The spinners have to bowl well and look to pick wickets; if they aren’t able to dry up the runs or break partnerships in the middle-order, the hosts would always look to attack the Indian bowling in the slog overs.
The Indian batters should look to score a bit more freely against the opposition spinners and not let them run away with economical figures. They should definitely not let part-time spinner Markram to dictate the proceedings.
The visitors can’t let the opposition partnerships to grow and put immense pressure at the backend of the innings; especially, on a strip that is expected to offer turn.
India’s probable XI for the 2nd ODI
KL Rahul (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant (wk), Venkatesh Iyer, Ravichandran Ashwin, Shardul Thakur, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal