Having thrived on flat or turning pitches at home, India’s batsmen were clearly finding it difficult to negotiate the bounce and seam movement in the first two one-day internationals against South Africa at Johannesburg and Durban.
Adaptability is the key to performing consistently in international cricket. Batsmen or bowlers who adjust their technique and methods quickly according to the conditions are the ones who will perform while collective effort will bring about team success.
The Indians knew the type of conditions that they would experience in South Africa. Many of them had the experience of performing with success in similar conditions. The top order was in great form in India to take their confidence high, but this could have also led to arrogance.
It appears that the batsmen failed to realise the basic cricketing truism — the longer you stay on pitches that are alien, the chances of adapting to the challenging conditions are better.
Courage and bravery are assets and characteristics that are required to succeed against quality fast bowling and that too on pitches where the ball seams and bounces.
But unfortunately, our top order batsmen showed no mental discipline of spending time to feel comfortable and find a solution to the questions that were posed by South Africa’s fast bowling attack.
In the first two ODIs, instead of using the successful strategy that is implemented on Indian pitches, the team could have done better by holding on to wickets in the first 20 overs, playing percentage cricket, attacking in the middle overs and, with wickets in hand, slogging in the last 10.
Even if this strategy wouldn’t have resulted in victories at Johannesburg and Durban, the experience gained by negotiating the bounce in the first 20 overs would have been a plus.
‘Winning the war is more important than winning the battle’, could have been India’s mantra. In trying to win the first two ODIs, the batsmen lost an opportunity to adjust their game, get crucial match practice because the experience gained would have come handy for the bigger battle — the two-Test series.
Now, with none of the batsmen appearing comfortable against pace, hopefully, Wednesday’s dead rubber ODI in Centurion can used more productively to live up to the expectations raised by Indian cricket lovers.