New Delhi: South Africa tried to replicate on the fifth day of the fourth Test against India what they had been doing for the past nine years so as to maintain the streak of not losing abroad, that is, put your head down and take it on. Proteas tried it in Delhi too but were halted by Indians, finally.
India wrapped up the resilient South Africa in the fourth and last test at Firozshah Kotla in Delhi and won the series by 3-0. The number one team in test cricket, South Africa suffered its first away series loss in nine years.
India team climbed up to number two in rankings with this series win. Off-spinner Ravi Ashwin was declared the Man of the series for his tally of 31 wickets and Ajinkya Rahane, who scored hundreds in each inning of this test, was awarded the Man of the match.
India, who had taken an unassailable lead before the start of this test, set a target of 481 for South Africa. Proteas in reply went for a dig in. Captain Hashim Amla and AB De Villiers defended out of their skin. Amla played 244 balls for his 25 and AB batted 297 deliveries for 43. In the end, this valiant effort fell short of the mammoth target.
This is India’s first series win against South Africa since 1997. The whole series drew a lot of conflicted point of views over the nature of pitches. Nagpur pitch was rated as ‘poor’ by ICC. However, Indian team defended themselves that every country created pitches that suit home team.
This is a pattern in the world cricket that as soon as there is a turn on the wicket, eyebrows are raised over the quality of the 22 yards. If there is extravagant movement in the form of seam or swing then it is said to be a ‘use of skills’. This double standard is unfair. If one needs talent and temperament to play on seaming deck then it must be the same for turners too.
A normal wicket in India is either batting friendly or a turner and people tend to have ‘problems’ with both. If India makes a batting deck then everyone comes up with ‘flattrack bully’ tag for the Indian team. Recently, Perth had a batting paradise where David Warner scored 253 and Ross Taylor replied with 290 runs.
A Nagpur-like rank turner is any day better than Perth’s heaven for the batsman. But not one person questioned the quality of Perth wicket and everyone praised Warner which he deserved. However, if the same Test would have been played in India and, let’s suppose, Dhawan had scored those 253 runs, then the world media and specialist would, for sure, have rated it as a flat track inning and blamed India for creating a pitch that is finishing Test cricket.
Even now, when India is the ‘super power’ in world cricket, people have their doubts whenever the sub-continent team wins. According to them, it happens either because of pitch or luck; talent can’t get these teams a win.
When Pakistan created reverse swing, they were called cheaters and today when James Anderson does it, it is a skill.
A seaming deck gets Stuart Broad wickets, it is purely his talent but if Ashwin gets wickets on a turner, it is all pitch. Indian batsmen are considered as the ones who score only at home. This series proved that scoring in India is not really that easy.
If one checks the stats, then one would realize that Virat has just three test hundreds at home out of his total of 11 and, on the other hand, David Warner has 12 tons at home out of 15 and still Virat has to prove time and again that he can bat anywhere in the world.
India won the series, but Indian batting which is relatively new has to bat well. Except for Rahane, nobody reached three figures. The worst part is Indians did not look that comfortable against spin which they should have. Indians were lucky that Ashwin was bowling for them, not against them.
This series is a special win. The result might show it as one sided, but this took a lot of efforts from the team, especially from the spinners who were not defending big totals.
While people will always have their doubts but nobody can take away the credit that Indian team deserves for the win. There will be challenges ahead in future, but it is important that this win is celebrated and not overshadowed by pitches and other unnecessary talks.