While Indian success had a lot to do with its superior spin department, it has also a lot to do with the form, or the lack of it, of one man — Hashim Amla. Over the years, he has proved that he's equally adept at playing spin as he is at handling pace. The last time he played at Nagpur in 2010, he scored 253* and this time, he hasn't managed that many in the entire tour across three formats.
Hashim Amla plays a shot during the Delhi Test Pic/AFP
So, what's gone wrong with the man whose middle name is 'consistency'? Well, it didn't start well for him in the shorter formats, and for once it felt that he was trying to get ahead of himself. He is surrounded by some quality stroke-makers and the way he went about doing his business in the T20s and ODIs, it gave the impression that he was trying to match his peers. It's not that his feet weren't moving or he wasn't timing the ball well. It's just that he was going too hard at the ball too soon and too often.
Previously a couple of boundaries would be followed by some cautious batting but this time, he refused to take the foot off the accelerator. Since matches were taking place one after the other, it didn't allow him enough time to reassess his methods. His dismissals in Indore and Mumbai in the ODI leg were classic examples of trying too much too soon. It was unlike Hashim Amla.
Once the formats changed, it just got tougher for him because the pitches were not conducive for anyone to find form. He fought well in the first innings of Mohali but left a straight one in the second innings. It was a huge error of judgment but that's exactly what happens when you are going through an extended bad patch. The next ball he got was a peach from Aaron in Bangalore and the pitch in Nagpur was just too tough to handle for a man who's out of form. If even the ones with reasonable form were having serious issues in staying put, there's little hope for someone searching for it.
But this tour couldn't have ended without Amla leaving an indelible mark of class. While the scoresheet of the final Test would show that he failed twice, people who watched his marathon innings would remember his grit and determination for a long time. It was a great example of what a man can achieve if he's able to control his mind.
He reduced his back lift to half to make sure that he presented a dead bat and showed steely resolve to block even the full balls. Even though he failed to save the Test for his country, he won a lot of hearts. Purists of the game can look back at the final innings of the last Test and breathe easy that their beloved format is still alive and kicking.
For an understated guy as Amla, his game is built around a lot of flamboyance. His exaggerated movement of legs and bat before the ball is bowled demand perfect synergy, for if one link goes missing, the entire performance falls flat. It felt that on this tour that piece had gone missing and before he could fix the problem, the tour got over.
Fourteen innings across three formats look like a lot of innings to fix an issue, but when you are going through a horrid patch, it's simply not enough. And that's why good players make a lot of hay while the sun is shining, for saving lots for rainy days is almost imperative, and Amla has surely saved enough to allow him time to recover from it.
Hashim Amla's highest score in the four-Test series. The 97-ball knock came in the first innings of the opening Test at Mohali