438! That's what South Africa got at Wankhede on Sunday. Let me rephrase it — that's what Indians conceded. Far too many. There were two reasons to it. One, conditions heavily loaded in favour of the batsmen which aided the explosive innings and two, the bowlers lacked skill when put under pressure.
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Bhuvneshwar Kumar during the first ODI against South Africa at Green Park Stadium in Kanpur recently. The Indian pacer conceded 106 runs at Wankhede Stadium on Sunday. Pic/AFP
Let's talk about the wicket first. The Wankhede wicket was a 'patta'. Generally you would get a bit of bounce and carry. It's not difficult for a batsman to go for his aerial shots on this ground as you can easily get under the bounce.
Hot and humid
Overhead conditions were challenging. It was extremely hot and humid especially in the afternoon when the South Africans were batting. I can recall quite a few games at this venue where I have felt the heat. One was the 1999-2000 Ranji Trophy semi-final against Tamil Nadu. After the end of the first day when we fielded for 90 overs, all 11 of us crashed out in the changing room. The scene was, all of us lying on our backs on the floor with our feet up on the chairs. So no matter how physically fit you are, the Mumbai humidity will get you.
Quinton de Kock is slowly establishing himself as one of the brightest stars in world cricket along with Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson and of course Joe Root. He not only gave the Proteas a great start but carried on till he reached his hundred. When he got out, there was not an ounce of energy left in him. Physical exhaustion had taken over his mind. After his fifty he dealt only in boundaries.
It is delightful to notice his footwork. Whether he's playing within the crease or coming down the track, because of his twinkle footwork, he invariably finds himself in a correct position to play the ball. The accurate feet placement and then the flourish of the hands going through the line of the ball is his hallmark. The result is there for all to see.
Faf du Plessis played a solid innings. He glues the South African innings together while somebody like a De Kock or a AB de Villiers can flourish around him. Towards the end, he too was drained out and was suffering from severe cramps after getting a ton. Both deserve applause for their commitment towards the team's goal.
Now, to the most dreaded yet respected player by the opposition, De Villiers. The Mumbai crowd greeted him like an emperor. He is the accomplished player of his generation, I would say. The chivalry of AB is infectious. He reminds me of Vivian Richards. When Richards took the stage, the world would stop and watch. Same with AB now. One shot in particular that he hit will stay in my mind. It was against Bhuvneshwar.
Now De Villiers is someone who has mastered the art of playing within his hitting zone. The ball landed just on good length and AB seized the opportunity to go aerial. His eyes focused on the ball. Head down, he swung at it, without lifting or moving his neck. The ball hit the sweetest part on his cricket bat and sailed into the third tier of the stadium.
It was like Tiger Woods golf swing. India's batting faltered under pressure. Only Ajinkya Rahane on his home turf showed some kind of resistance. In the end it was a no contest. For years we have been dealing with this but our bowling looks ordinary especially India's medium pacers, who were clueless, under- confident and hapless when under pressure.
If India wants to win consistently in the future they have to hunt for a few fast bowlers and work on them. When I mention fast bowlers, they ought to be over 145kph and not 130 kph. There's a big difference. An Indian team advertisement should read, "urgent…fast bowlers needed."
Bhuvneshwar Kumar's economy rate in the just-concluded five-match ODI series vs South Africa