Clayton Murzello: 0-3 result will leave deep scars

Updated: Jan 25, 2018, 08:04 IST | Clayton Murzello | Mumbai

No Indian team has been whitewashed in a three-Test series against South Africa. Kohli's talented bunch must duck this ignominy

India skipper Virat Kohli celebrates his ton during the second Test against South Africa at SuperSport Park, Centurion, on January 15 in Pretoria. Pic/Getty Images
India skipper Virat Kohli celebrates his ton during the second Test against South Africa at SuperSport Park, Centurion, on January 15 in Pretoria. Pic/Getty Images

Clayton MurzelloAt the start of the Freedom Series, supporters of Virat Kohli hoped to witness India's first ever Test series win in South Africa. A good battle was expected and the stupendous home success across all formats must have counted for something. But the ongoing final Test at the Wanderers in Johannesburg has ended up being a dead rubber for the hosts, who won the Cape Town and Centurion Tests where India's batting got exposed.

Virat & Co are a game away from a whitewash. If that eventuates, it will be the first time that an Indian team will lose all their Tests in South Africa. The last whitewash India endured was in Australia - in 2011-12 - less than five months after the 4-0 shellacking suffered in England in 2011. Those were some dark days!

South Africa know a few things about whitewashes; the most famous one being the 4-0 thrashing they handed out to Bill Lawry's Australians in 1969-70. After the hosts won the first two Tests in convincing fashion, South Africa wanted their visitors to play the fifth Test in Johannesburg. The extra Test was obviously not in the players' tour contract and so a new contract had to be signed for which the players wanted $500 as against $200, which the Board could part with. Ian Chappell, as vice-captain, said nothing doing. The players then stuck to their guns and didn't agree to play Game Five, much to the annoyance of the Australian Cricket Board, which was left embarrassed because they had agreed to South Africa's suggestion to conduct the extra Test.

Middle-order batting stalwart Doug Walters, who could see the funny side to any situation, played true to form and remarked many years later that it was good that they didn't play the fifth Test because 5-0 would look a lot worse than 4-0. Some of the Australians in that team apportioned blame for the defeat on the previous tour of India, where they had to cope with some challenging conditions. From turning tracks in India, where they conquered Bishan Singh Bedi, Erapalli Prasanna and Srinivas Venkataraghavan for a 3-1 series win, they moved to pace-friendly tracks in South Africa. Their batsmen appeared clueless against the likes of Peter Pollock, Mike Procter and Eddie Barlow. Like the current Indian team, that fine Australian side too set foot on South African shores under-prepared.

Another similarity is the catching, and skipper Bill Lawry has always lamented the missed chances his otherwise sharp catchers like Ian Chappell and Paul Sheahan would have taken with ease. Lawry put that down to fatigue. It led to a ridiculous situation wherein a pace bowler of Graham McKenzie's class, who ended the Indian tour with 21 wickets in five Tests, claimed only one wicket and gave away 333 runs in South Africa. His solitary scalp was a hit wicket dismissal of Ali Bacher.

Chappell, who was touted as the world's best batsman by his skipper Bill Lawry in the build-up to the series, managed only 92 runs in eight innings. The same batsman plundered 324 runs on the India tour.

In 1998-99, the South Africans beat Brian Lara's West Indies 5-0. For even the most optimistic of West Indian supporters, this was hard to digest, and to think that the West Indies players, including Brian Lara, threatened to not land in South Africa until their pay demands were met. Tony Cozier, the late voice of West Indies cricket, never tired from relating an incident that took place on that ill-fated tour. Cozier returned to the team hotel one day in East London to find long-serving physiotherapist and trainer Dennis Waight in the bar. When Cozier asked him why was he in the bar at a time he usually conducted his training sessions, Waight revealed that skipper Brian Lara and his deputy Carl Hooper complained to manager Clive Lloyd that Waight's training regimes were too demanding and that he ought to lessen their workouts. So the committed Australian trainer, who contributed immensely to West Indies' invincibility in the 1970s and 1980s, was made to follow orders. The 5-0 result didn't surprise the pundits. The West Indians were pathetic and Hansie Cronje's South Africans proved how ruthless they could be.

In more recent times, the Proteas have inflicted home whitewashes on Sri Lanka (in 2016-17) and Pakistan (in 2012-13). The current Indian team will not want to be added to this list for sure. They don't deserve to be in that club simply because they have the potential to knock over the best on their day. The doomsayers need not be so hard because there are some bright spots if they decide to take their eyes off the loss column for a moment.

mid-day's group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello. Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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