The mission to defeat South Africa on its soil remains what it was before the Test series — an unfulfilled dream.
The anguish of it all was writ large on skipper Virat Kohli’s visage after the game at Centurion. He had been desperate for this overseas series triumph and his disappointment was visible.
Kohli had been animated on the field of play when things did not go his team’s way. And after suffering the first Test series setback of his career, something in him snapped.
When the tough barrage of questions arrived at the press conference, an angry Kohli fumed. Words were exchanged and it left a bad taste all around.
It is never easy to lead the Indian team and the pressures of captaincy are beginning to tell on Kohli.
He is probably carrying a lot of load; too much hinges on him as a batsman. When his team fails to nail the key moments in the game, he reacts. The problem is when media seeks answers. Kohli believes he is being targeted unfairly, and he shoots back.
In the long run, Kohli will realise that calmness pays. On the field, you can be aggressive and full of intent without crossing the line but a skipper needs to retain his composure.
Otherwise, the captain could make life difficult for himself. The volatile behaviour may end up being a sign of weakness, adding to more pressure.
Kohli, almost single-handedly, kept India in the second Test with his wonderful 153.
His passion for cricket is unparalleled. He gives it his all; in his fitness training, at the nets, in the manner he fields, the way he runs between wickets and how he constructs an innings.
There is so much to admire in Kohli but as India looks at other looming overseas Test campaigns, he will have to avoid those temperamental flare-ups on and off the field.
India’s failure in South Africa essentially boils down to poor batting. The bowlers, save the runs given away to the South African tail on day one at Newlands, have largely done their job.
But the batting has been exposed when up against high quality pacemen. Footwork is the key element of batsmanship and the Indian batsmen have been caught out at the crease, been dismissed playing across or away from the body.
The number of soft dismissals in the second Test was shocking. Batsmen chasing deliveries outside off with minimal use of feet, were giving their wickets away without a fight.
And those who get a start have to capitalise. M. Vijay had done all the hard work to set himself up for a big score in the first innings but then fell to a loose shot against left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj. These are game changing moments.
Cheteshwar Pujara’s running between the wickets was a one-way ticket to disaster.
R. Ashwin bowled capably on a track reminiscent of a sub-continental pitch at Centurion and batted well in the first innings, but would not be pleased with the ‘nothing’ shot he got out to in the second innings.
Hardik Pandya needs to tighten up his cricket. He can whip up moments of brilliance but can also be terribly casual with his approach.
In Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi and Morne Morkel, the Indians were up against a bunch of fast bowlers with speed, bounce and control, who could create stress and dent the line-up even on a surface similar to those in India.
Collectively, they came up short.
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