MS Dhoni & Co may have been outplayed by South Africa in the second T20 to lose the series in Cuttack, but what is baffling is that they capitulated before playing out the full quota of overs, writes Amol Muzumdar
From the high altitude of Dharamsala to the low-lying areas of Cuttack in the far east of India is a fair distance to travel. The South Africans seem to have adapted to the demands at the Barabati Stadium more aptly than the Indians. It all happened quickly. India lost the series — well let me put it in a better way — the Proteas won the series convincingly.
Shikhar Dhawan reverse sweeps a South African spinner during the second T20I at Barabati Stadium. Pic/PTI
They look ready for a battle, they look hungry for a fight, they look prepared. Their body language was assertive on the field. Their bowling was accurate, fielding has been their forte for years — they proved it once again by getting two vital run-outs which changed the course of the game. They may be methodical in their preparation, but are clinical when it comes to execution.
Chris Morris bowled sharp and quick whereas Albie Morkel was clever. Imran Tahir, the marquee bowler, produced a beauty to get rid of Harbhajan Singh. That delivery was a classic, a googly which was tossed up outside the off stump, inviting the batsman to drive, then eluding his inside edge to hit the furniture. It was a dream delivery.
The topic of discussion is the famed Indian batting order rather than the usual feeble bowling. It collapsed like nine pins. What baffles me is that they capitulated before the dead end. No one made an attempt to play out the full quota of overs. They were all in overdrive.
At times, when heading uphill, you have got to come down a few gears. There's no harm in patting the ball down the ground for a single and cut off the big shots for a while. This format tests your ability to assess and reassess the situation quickly. The top order failed, but the lower order could have played sensibly. I have seen Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Axar Patel play in domestic cricket — they can chip in with vital contributions. They don't seem to realise the full potential they possess while batting.
The only bright spark in the grey clouds at Cuttack was Ravichandran Ashwin's bowling. His game has gone up a couple of notches ever since he has decided to bowl slower and rely on imparting revolutions on the ball, hence making the ball dip in the air. The two dismissals were in a classical mould — even the great Erapalli Prasanna would have applauded. I am sure.
First was of Hashim Amla when he was forced to be caught at backward short leg while attempting an on drive. The second wicket was of AB de Villiers, who was deceived twice in one ball — in the air and off the wicket. It's mean bowling.
The game got over quickly as JP Duminy in his customary style finished things off for the Proteas. South Africans richly deserved high praise and celebrations, but the unruly behaviour of the crowd spoilt the fun. When will Indians realise that cricket is just a sport. Failure is an event and not a person!
Amol Muzumdar is a former India 'A' player