This was India’s 9th tour to South Africa and Mahendra Singh Dhoni remains the only Indian captain who managed to draw a series on South African soil (2010).
Former South African batsman Boeta Dippenaar believes the Virat Kohli-led team missed out on a big opportunity to win their maiden Test series in South Africa. India had won the opening Test of the three-match series, in Centurion, by 113 runs and then lost the second Test, in Johannesburg, by 7 wickets.
India set a 212 run target in the third and final Test and the Proteas overhauled it with ease to wrap up a 7 wicket win and a 2-1 series win.
“It’s an incredible victory for South Africa because we know how they started the series, how their players’ forms were. I think very few people touted South Africa as the winners ahead of the series. Even I myself thought that India would win the series. India had the chance to win their maiden Test series in South Africa, but they missed out on the opportunity. But credit goes to South Africa. South African players showed more character than the Indian team. This was the major difference between the two teams,” Dippenaar told TimesofIndia.com in an exclusive interview from South Africa.
“The animosity in the (South African) board room certainly helped to unify the team to say – we are on our own, we need to stand together and support each other. This helped this largely inexperienced team to overcome a very good and experienced Indian team,” Dippenaar, who played 38 Tests and 107 ODIs for South Africa between 1999 to 2007, said.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR INDIA?
Dippenaar blamed Indian batters for the series loss and said the top order failed to assess the conditions properly.
In three Tests, KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant scored 226 runs (avg 37.67) and 186 runs (avg 37.20), respectively. Kohli, who missed the second Test due to injury, scored 161 runs in four innings, averaging 40.25.
Test specialists Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara were once again questioned for their poor run with the bat. Rahane managed just 136 runs in three Tests, averaging 22.67, while Pujara could muster only 124 runs in three Tests at an average of 20.67.
“India’s batting was problematic. Indian batsmen weren’t consistent. It also takes great skills to bowl on a South African wicket. Because the SA wickets are more helpful to the bowlers. You need to force a batsman to play forward and towards the mid-off area. Indian bowlers were bowling either too full or too short and weren’t consistent with their lengths. If you watch Kagiso Rabada, he managed to hit that line and length regularly and better than Indian bowlers. Keegan Peterson was awesome. He managed to tackle the Indian pace bravely,” Dippenaar further told TimesofIndia.com.
THE DRS CONTROVERSY
The Decision Review System (DRS) once again threw up a controversy.
The incident happened in the 21st over on Day 3 of the third and final Test when spinner Ravichandran Ashwin trapped SA captain, Dean Elgar, in front of his stumps. Umpire Marais Erasmus didn’t take much time and raised his finger, but Elgar decided to take the review. Replays however showed the ball was going to miss the stumps. Umpire Erasmus also shook his head in disbelief when he saw the replays on the big screen. He was in fact heard saying that is impossible.
Watching the reversal of the decision, Kohli and his teammates lost their cool. They spoke into the stump mic to express their frustration.
Virat Kohli (Twitter Photo)
“There are always some decisions we feel should have gone the other way, should have been different. The passion Virat shows us about the game and his team. And we love to see that. He adds spice to the game and people love his energy. He shows a fine balance between his emotion, passion and going overboard. This is the key part,” Dippenaar opined.
“I am not convinced that DRS is 100 percent accurate. I have seen one or two deliveries where the ball pitched with an impact with the pad and then the subsequent tracking just didn’t make sense (with) the angle with which the ball proceeded. So, it is always difficult to say. We live in an imperfect world. In my opinion, as a whole, DRS has certainly improved with decision making. They are not giving blatantly wrong decisions that we saw in the past,” the South African added.
CAN KOHLI WIN A SENIOR ICC TITLE?
Kohli is not the Indian limited-overs captain anymore. The Indian Test captain, who has a plethora of records to his name, is still in search of a senior ICC trophy as a captain.
Can he go on and win the ICC Test Championship title this time? After the series loss vs the Proteas, India have dropped to number five on the World Test Championship points table.
Dippenaar is confident Kohli will definitely lift an ICC title as captain before hanging up his cricketing boots.
Virat Kohli (AFP Photo)
“I am sure he will win an ICC trophy. He is too much of an experienced player that a series defeat will do anything wrong to him. He has given a lot to cricket. I think he will probably talk to teammates and reassess the series that – what he can do and what he cannot. I seriously think India missed out on a big opportunity to win their maiden Test series in South Africa. I think Virat and his men will look back and will have some level of regret. The opportunity was there for them but they failed to take it,” Dippenaar said.
“We will probably still see a new era of Virat Kohli post captaincy in the Indian cricketing colours. In the twilight of his career, he will be much better than before, if he doesn’t have the burden of captaincy,” Dippenaar said.
FAVOURITE CRICKETING MEMORY VS INDIA
Dippenaar recalled the Kolkata Test (in December 2004) as his most memorable cricketing moment against India.
Though South Africa lost the match by 8 wickets, the South African loved the jubilant and vociferously cheering crowd at the Eden Gardens.
“Playing a Test match in Kolkata. I never, in my life, experienced the buzz that was at the Eden Gardens, that day. It is really hard to describe. It was remarkable and the passion Indian people have about cricket is amazing,” Dippenaar signed off