SA vs Ind, ODIs 2021-22: Tale of Missed Opportunities for India and perhaps a Shift in ODI Template

Team India need to relook at their ODI plans as the current template looks outdated.

SA vs Ind, ODIs 2021-22: Tale of Missed Opportunities for India and perhaps a Shift in ODI Template
India need to relook at their ODI plans after whitewash against South Africa (©ICC/Twitter)

India’s short tour of South Africa in these troubled times of the COVID-19 pandemic came to an end on Sunday, January 23 and the scoreline reads 5-1 in favour of the home side after three Tests and three ODIs. After the win at Centurion, many believed India would win its first Test series, if not bully a rather meek South African side into submission. But that was not to be, as the Proteas staged a remarkable comeback, and took the series 2-1.

In search of a redemption, even if a diluted one, Team India dawned their blue jerseys and set to avenge the Test drubbing; three ODIs later, they found themselves whitewashed in the 50-over format.


India lost key moments, particularly in Wanderers and Newlands Tests and also in the first ODI in Paarl

India’s batting woefully betrayed them in their second innings in Johannesburg and Cape Town. They failed to put on runs on the board in the second and third Tests, surrendering the toss advantage. They persisted with an out-of-form Ajinkya Rahane whose returns diminished as the series progressed.


Cut to the first ODI match, India had South Africa reeling at 68/3 but allowed them to get back into the game.


The Men in Blue will look back at this tour as a series of missed opportunities. How often does a team stage a comeback from behind to win a Test series? One could recall India’s remarkable comeback when they halted Steve Waugh’s men’s juggernaut in the 2001 Test series played against them on the sub-continent. But these events are rare in history and South Africa could be proud of themselves for the feat they achieved in the Freedom Trophy 2021-22.

The question that begs to be answered is that whether India’s Test team is fast gaining a reputation of surrendering the toss advantage on difficult tracks? How often do they let the opposition get away on spin-friendly tracks? One could be sure of the fact that there will be other tours in the future to follow, where these wrongs will be corrected but the question is that can we still afford to let these opportunities go by in the name of learnings?


Read More: SA vs Ind, 3rd ODI, Cape Town: Deepak Chahar's 54(34) goes in vain; SA complete clean sweep


India’s ODI Template fraught with loopholes and dearth of quality all-rounders

Why is the ODI template not working for India and what changes can we expect in a possible build-up to the ICC World Cup 2023 squad?


When it comes to Tests and T20s, teams have their strategies and templates which can be termed as conservative, defensive or aggressive but ODI is a different beast altogether. It borders between Test cricket and T20 cricket, hence one of the reasons that a conservative approach or an ultra-aggressive approach doesn’t always work.

England are one team that have risen through the ranks in ODI cricket over the past few years. While their style of play borders on aggressive, one will find everything in their playing eleven. Aggressive top-order batters, an anchor batter at number three, batting all-rounders, bowling all-rounders and most importantly, quality finishers.


India’s top five could only occasionally roll up their sleeves to provide a cushion of a few overs of freestyle batting for the lower-order while setting targets. They bank on their top three to get them through tricky situations and shift gears throughout the innings. Why is India’s number four in ODIs still a perpetual dilemma which is nowhere close to being solved. With the exception of Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja, there is a real dearth of quality all-rounders in Indian cricket at the moment. When none of your top five bowl and none of your bowlers are genuine bowling all-rounders then you lack the arsenal to get through tricky situations.

IPL hero Venkatesh Iyer found wanting at the highest level

In the two games that preceded the third ODI, Venkatesh Iyer was the designated all-rounder, entrusted with finishing games and providing a sixth bowling option. It is still early days in his cricketing career but his performances with the bat were uninspirational and he never looked threatening enough to take wickets or contain runs.

As far as Shreyas Iyer is concerned, he was expected to do better. When you have been around the international cricket circuit for a considerable time you are expected to take on the responsibility and bail your team out of tricky situations. Shreyas definitely has the game to excel at the number four spot but the execution has not been up to the mark so far.

We can safely draw home the point that India need to rethink their ODI template and move away from a strategy of five bowlers, five batters and a batting all-rounder who is unaggressive in the bowling department.


Read More: SA vs Ind, 2nd ODI, Paarl: SA execute flawless chase; beat India by 7 wickets, take series 2-0


Fresh bowling arsenal need of the hour

Over the last four to five years, one could notice a pattern developing. During bilateral series and tours, India field a plethora of fast bowlers who do well occasionally but with an ICC event approaching they go back to Bhuvneshwar Kumar who is battling perpetual injuries. With all due respect, when someone spend most of the calendar year in the rehabilitation centre, he/she will need game time behind to perform in crunch situations. Being drafted in World Cup squads without much game time and being expected to execute is an unfair demand on part of the management.


Somewhere, it also marks the management's inability to be brave and move on to other players. Prasidh Krishna, Deepak Chahar, Thangaraj Natrajan, Mohammed Siraj and many others have earned their due in national colours, albeit in Tests and T20s. It is high time that they are given a stage to showcase their skills and talent in the ODI format as well.

Ravichandran Ashwin has done reasonably well on this tour but one can’t help but wonder if a new finger spinner will fit into the template more, perhaps a Washington Sundar who has been on the sidelines due to his finger injury will do well in ODIs if given an opportunity. Rather than opting for a like-for-like replacement, why not signal a shift in ideology and have a bowling all-rounder who could not just tonk the ball but also deploy the punches and the drives effectively.

A few games down the line, we will see a return of newly-appointed limited overs skipper Rohit Sharma along with Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja into the mix. The top three slots are inarguably locked and Hardik and Jadeja will walk into any side on this planet. With limited time and spots, the management definitely should rethink and play around with their options and move on to an aggressive ODI template.

Read More: SA vs Ind, 3rd Test, Freedom Trophy 2021-22: Petersen's 82 key in SA's 'come from behind' 2-1 win

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