Memories of 2007 came back to haunt Rahul Dravid as India were beaten 2-1 in three-match series. Dravid, who was the captain during that series, was back in the Rainbow Nation as the head coach this time around. In that series as well, India took the early lead winning the first Test, before South Africa came back and sealed the deal with back-to-back wins. He would have liked to win, but fate had some other ideas. India started off really well, beating the hosts in the first Test by 113 runs. But just like 2007, the visitors ran out of steam as the batters kept deserting them in crucial junctures. We take a look at the Indian team and how each player has performed throughout the series.
Virat Kohli: Kohli started off well at the Centurion. There wasn’t a foot wrong from him as he made his way to 35 runs off 94 balls. Then came his only fault which proved fatal. Kohli edged a widish delivery straight to the slip and with it, his run drought continued (remember, his last international century came in 2019). He missed out in Johannesburg, and in Cape Town he was back among the runs, scoring 79 runs. He might have missed out on a century, but that innings had written class all over it especially on a bouncy pitch which also aided some movement. Captaincy might have not been up to the mark, but Kohli the batter still holds sway above the rest. His 143-ball 29 in the second innings of the final Test unusually long innings, in comparison to what Rishabh Pant was doing at the the other end. Here again, he chased a wide delivery and perished to Lungi Ngidi.
KL Rahul: Rahul made an instant impact as Test vice0captain in Centurion. He looked clinical as he left good deliveries outside off and went after the bad ones which fetched him lot of runs. His 123 runs made sure India were off to a superb start and eventually laid the way for India’s win. Nonetheless, in Kohli’s absence, his captaincy skills came under scrutiny as India went down by seven wickets in Johannesburg. But that shouldn’t be alarming as this was his first game as captain. Besides, senior batters deserted the team which played a key role in the defeat. However, KL’s good form continued as he led from the front with a fifty in the first innings. He also remained top run-scorer for India with 226 runs in 3 innings.
Mayank Agarwal: Agarwal might have made a mark in the home series against NZ, but his batting technique leaves a lot to be desired especially in testing conditions like South Africa. Besides a 60 in Centurion, his scores read: 4, 26, 23, 15 and 7. He got starts, but never converted it. On multiple occasions, he was squared up by Kagiso Rabada.
Cheteshwar Pujara: Pujara toured this country and slammed a century in 2013. Nine years later, he came back to South Africa and probably drove a death knell into his international career. Although it is still very far fetched to assume this as Kohli has already said that he would back him, still, a player of his stature looked iffy in the middle throughout, which was concerning, nonetheless. He had just one half-century (53) which came in the second Test, and even then the free-flowing demeanour was missing. With 124 runs in six innings, Pujara was probably the biggest flop for India this series.
Ajinkya Rahane: Just like Pujara, Rahane’s make-or-break moment came in Johannesburg in India’s second innings. And just like Pujara, it went begging. India were in trouble and had the duo hung on in the middle, not only India could have won, it could have resurrected their careers as well. As mentioned, this is still premature to say that Rahane will not play for India again. But the pressure is mounting on him with various stakeholders (former cricketers and fans) already demanding his ouster. The luck factor also went missing. Scores of 9, 1, 0, 58, 48 and 20 is proof of that. He averaged 22.66 in the series.
Hanuma Vihari: Vihari got just one game and did his very best to set the tongue-wagging of many who were already impressed with his performance at SCG where he saved the test for India exactly a year ago. Kohli was ruled out in Johannesburg and he got his opportunity. Although he failed to deliver in the first innings, he forged a rear-guard act with a defensive 40 which helped India post a respectable total to South Africa. However, it didn’t stop Proteas from levelling the series.
Rishabh Pant: Pant can be mercurial. At one stage, he could be the one making a fool of himself. Then, he can also be the one who is setting the game on fire. In Johannesburg, he invited Sunil Gavaskar’s wrath for playing a ‘nothing’ shot as India crumbled; in Cape Town, he became the second centurion of the series remaining unbeaten at 100. Unfortunately, he couldn’t take India to a win as others deserted him; nonetheless, he further strengthened his brand with centuries in Australia, England and South Africa. Moreover, behind the stumps he did not do his reputation any harm taking 13 catches in the series. There was no glaring error from him through the series.
Ravichandran Ashwin: Ashwin is a great spinner, and with Kohli’s 5-boiler theory the onus falls on Ashwin to contribute with the bat in a substantial wayobut, but this series, Ashwin fell short. In Johannesburg and Cape Town, India saw mini collapses; had Ashwin applied himself, it could have been handy. In 3 innings, he accounted for just 89 with an average of 14. A batter of his calibre can’t just get away with mediocre performances. The leeway can only be given if he gets you wickets. In South Africa, he picked up just three wickets in the entire series. He bowled only 64.1 overs despite featuring in all three matches and returned an exceedingly high average of 60.66.
Jasprit Bumrah: Bumrah started off his career from these shores in 2018 and showed the world what he is capable of. Four years later, he returned to South Africa as Team India’s pace spearhead. He picked up 12 wickets in three matches with a superb average of 23. Over the years, he has grown even fierier with his demeanour. He had run-ins with James Anderson in England, and in South Africa, he wasn’t afraid of a young Marco Jansen. However, his little scuffle with Jansen was unnecessary and wasn’t received well. Even Dale Steyn had to tweet: “learn to take it kid.” And while the world was in awe of his short, game-changing spells, he could not replicate that form in the fourth innings of both the Johannesburg and Cape Town Tests.
Mohammed Shami: Shami continues to make an impact for India on a consistent basis. Probably his best years started in South Africa four years ago. He topped the wicket charts for India, picking up 14 wickets in three games with a strike rate of 42! with best figures of 5/44. His ability to seam it both ways and extract good bounce makes him all the more lethal in Rainbow Nation. But it seemed he lacked support and without Mohammad Siraj in the final Test, Shami and Bumrah looked overcooked in the third Test and similar to Bumrah, he too seemed to fizzle away in the second innings
Shardul Thakur: Just like Ashwin, Shardul’s batting left a lot to be desired, but his bowling was top class. He accounted for 12 wickets in three games with a seven-for in Johannesburg. His strike rate was even better than most of Indian bowlers. He picked up a wicket every 36 balls. His 7/61 at Johannesburg proved to be the best bowling figures for an Indian pacer in South Africa, but barring that he had little impact in the series. It was just that, being a bowling all-rounder, he could have applied himself just a little bit.
Umesh Yadav: Will Umesh ever come out of the shadow of Bumrah and Shami. Well, if his performance in South Africa is anything to go by, the answer remains a firm no. Umesh didn’t even feature in the first two Test matches and when he did, he accounted for just two wickets. Despite having good pace, Umesh can be wayward with his line and length. Umesh was the only bower from either side to leak runs at over 4 runs per over, and this despite playing just a single game.