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IND VS SA: A missed opportunity for India as batting woes resurface once again

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On the 3rd day of the deciding Test during South Africa's chase, Ravi Ashwin was caught saying “You should find better ways to win Supersport.” after Dean Elgar mysteriously survived a DRS call. Kohli deliberately came up to the stump mic and said " “Focus on your team as well when they shine the ball, eh! Not just the opposition. Trying to catch people all the time." KL Rahul was seen chirping "Whole country playing against 11 guys".

For one, the broadcaster doesn't actually control the Hawkeye technology which is used for lbw decisions. Hawkeye is an independent body with cameras of its own which was rightly pointed out by Shaun Pollock. But the reactions from the Indian players had more to do with the match situation than anything. They were the cries of a desperate side who were staring down the barrel of another series loss against a familiar foe in a familiar place.

Virat Kohli's side came into this Test series on the back of a historic series win in Australia and are on the cusp of glory in England. So a Test series against a South African side, termed as one of the weakest since their readmission in cricket shouldn't have been a problem for Virat Kohli's all-conquering winning machine.

But Test series aren't won until they are actually won as India found out, especially in South Africa where they have never won a series before. So in a series in which they were considered as the favourites, what exactly went wrong for them?

The batsmen haven't put enough runs on the board which has been their key issue away from home just as any other touring side currently in world cricket. India scored over 300 only once in the series despite batting first in all three games where the conditions were decent for batting.

The one time they scored over 300, they went on to win the Test match highlighting the need for 1st innings runs. The experienced middle-order trio of Pujara, Rahane and Kohli have failed to make significant contributions which hurt India badly.

Especially the continuous backing of Pujara and Rahane was baffling to witness even though they were horribly out of form. Pujara is averaging 25.78 since his last prolific series in 2018/19 against Australia while Rahane is averaging 33 since 2018.

Reuters Photo

They haven't been in good form for quite a while now judging by their average but just when it seems that they may finally face the axe, they come up with a brilliant knock to remind their class and silence the critics. The exact same scenario played out once again when both players scored crucial fifties in the 2nd innings of the 2nd Test. Rahane hasn't scored a fifty in his last 9 innings while Pujara in his last 7 innings and just as the pressure was mounting they played career-saving knocks.

Both have had glaring technical deficiencies against the moving ball but haven't taken corrective measures. Pujara was dismissed cheaply in both innings. He fell for a well-planned leg-stump ploy in the 2nd innings and in the 1st innings, just as Jansen came round the wicket he had no clue about his off-stump and was out caught behind. Rahane has been guilty of not moving his feet and getting stranded on the crease and that is how he was dismissed in both innings.

But was it foolish enough from the management and Virat to give them another chance in a series decider when both players were horribly out of touch? It seems even more strange when they had ready-made replacements in Shreyas Iyer and Hanuma Vihari who were proven performers in Test cricket.

Kohli, who had backed Pujara and Rahane through this phase has indicated that changes are required in the batting order. "They [South Africa] were better at applying pressure on us for a longer period of time. Yes, the batting obviously has to be looked into. Having collapses every now and then is not a good thing, and that's something we need to analyse and correct moving forward." So, have we seen the last of Pujara and Rahane in Indian whites?

The bowlers were once again made to do the heavy lifting and they have delivered once again by getting India back into the game time and time again. Shami was the star in the 1st test with 8 wickets while Shardul Thakur played his part with a 7-wicket haul in the 2nd and Bumrah led India's fightback in the decider with a 5-wicket haul.

But should India have played an extra batter in place of Ravi Ashwin, who picked up just 3 wickets in the series? He was coming in at No.7 which is pretty high for his batting talents. India has sorely missed the services of Hardik Pandya who would have been the ideal player at No.7.

So in what was Virat Kohli's last series as skipper in South Africa, he couldn't add to his overseas series collection which will be a bitter pill to swallow. The series has exposed the chinks in India's armour and it is up to the players and management to rectify them.

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