How fortunes change in sport within a matter of 20 days! On December 30, India began their tour of South Africa with a bang, recording a comprehensive 113-run win over South Africa for their first Test triumph in Centurion. Their dream of securing a maiden Test series win in South Africa looked nearer than ever.
Less than a month later, India’s tour is threatening to turn into a nightmare. After their ‘Test’ dream went up in smoke with a 2-1 verdict in favour of the hosts, their captain announced his resignation. The beleaguered tourists were jolted further when they went down by 31 runs in the opening ODI in Paarl.
With questions cropping up after every defeat, India will be desperate to bounce back to stay alive in the ODI series when they take on a far more impressive South Africa in the second ODI at the same venue on Friday.
Having enjoyed unprecedented success on overseas tours as a legendary batsman, Rahul Dravid will surely be hurting with the kind of cricket India have played so far in his first overseas trip as head coach.
However, there are some decisions regarding the first ODI that Dravid and stand-in-captain KL Rahul must explain. Why was Suryakumar Yadav, who has impressed in whatever chances he’s got so far, dropped and ‘allrounder’ Venkatesh Iyer preferred? While Surya has been the power engine of India’s T20 batting, in just the three ODIs that he played last year in Sri Lanka, where Dravid himself was coach, the Mumbaikar’s averaged 62.
In the dashing batsman’s absence, India’s batting completely lost its way after a 92-run second-wicket stand between Shikhar Dhawan (79) and Virat Kohli (51) had put them on course in pursuit of 297. While the decision to drop the 31-year-old was highly debatable, the logic of replacing him with Iyer, who made his ODI debut, is bound to raise a debate.
India clearly have no faith in Iyer’s ability to bowl at the international level, which puts a serious question mark against billing the Madhya Pradesh cricketer as an allrounder who can replace Hardik Pandya. Even as the Proteas batsmen plundered runs with ease, the skipper didn’t summon Iyer to bowl even once.