Indian captain Virat Kohli refused to bask in his team’s success in South Africa as he received the International Cricket Council Test championship mace for the second year running.
Somewhat incongruously, the mace was presented to Kohli on Saturday at the end of a triumphant limited overs campaign. India won a one-day international series 5-1 and a Twenty20 series 2-1.
Perhaps it was a reminder to Kohli that second-ranked South Africa had won a Test series at the start of the tour.
“I’d say we are still 80 percent,” Kohli said of the Test team as he looked forward to major challenges in tours of England and Australia later this year.
“When we are able to achieve what we want to in the two tours, we’ll be more content. But our 80 percent is also exciting. To be a world-class side, you have to be 100 percent.”
Although the cut-off date for the ICC rankings only comes in April, India cannot be overtaken. Apart from the mace and the glory India will collect $1 million in prize money.
Kohli leaves South Africa having dazzled with his batting artistry and his no-holds-barred captaincy style.
It is doubtful whether any visiting captain in modern times has made a greater impact than Kohli, who stated on arrival that his India team feared no opposition nor any conditions. “We look at the pitch and adapt to the conditions,” he said. “Every game is a home game. It’s as simple as that.”
His early press conference set the tone for the tour. Articulate, occasionally combative with journalists who challenged, for instance, his selection policies, Kohli stayed true to his mantra of playing positive cricket and not taking a backward step.
He did not complain about the seam-friendly Test pitches prepared for South Africa’s fast bowlers, even though ICC match referee Chris Broad rated the pitches for the first two Tests “average” and his successor Andy Pycroft condemned the pitch used for the third Test at the Wanderers as “poor”.
Kohli’s response was that sub-standard pitches helped his bowlers as much as they helped the South Africans. Although India lost the first two Tests, they were competitive in both and made the best of the worst conditions by winning the third Test.
Then they outclassed South Africa in the white ball games.
Kohli was the leading run-scorer for either side in both the Tests and one-day games. He showed resolve, sound technique and courage in difficult conditions in the Tests, scoring 286 runs, including the only century of the series, at an average of 47.66.
He exploded on more batsmen-friendly pitches in the one-dayers, striking a world record bilateral series total of 558 runs at a staggering average of 186.00, scoring at a fraction under a run a ball.
His teammates responded to Kohli’s example. The bowlers, in particular, were outstanding. Given his chance in the Tests, Jasprit Bumrah showed he was much more than a good one-day bowler, while Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar all troubled the South African batsmen.
In the one-day games, India’s gambit of picking two wrist spinners in Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal proved a master stroke.
Kohli’s form obscured flaws in the rest of the Indian batting. None of the other specialist batsmen averaged 30 in the Tests but Shikhar Dhawan shone in the one-day matches. Rohit Sharma managed a single impressive innings, a century in the fifth one-day international after Kohli was out for 36, his lowest score of the series.
Virat Kohli missed the third and final T20 against South Africa but India still maintained their intensity to prevail by seven runs and win the series 2-1 and cap a successful tour of South Africa.
Batting first on a tricky Cape Town wicket, India took their time to get going before useful contributions from Shikhar Dhawan (47) and Suresh Raina (43) helped India post 172-7.
In reply, India seamers tied the South African batsmen down and despite a fighting 55 from captain JP Duminy and a whirlwind 49 from 24 balls from Christiaan Jonker, the hosts could only reach 165-6.
India thus finished the tour on a high with a 5-1 ODI series win under their belt which came after a 2-1 defeat in a hard-fought Test series.
Here is a quick wrap up of India’s series clinching win in Cape Town
INDIA MAKE CHANGES
Captain Kohli missed the deciding match due to a stiff back. In his place, Rohit Sharma led the team. India made other changes to the side, with Jasprit Bumrah coming in for Jaydev Unadkat, Dinesh Karthik coming in for Kohli and left-arm spinner Axar Patel replacing leggie Yuzvendra Chahal.
#TeamIndia Playing XI for the decider game. Virat Kohli misses out due to a stiff back. Dinesh Karthik, Axar Patel and Jasprit Bumrah are three changes for #TeamIndia #SAvIND pic.twitter.com/n2X7mSOHLd— BCCI (@BCCI) February 24, 2018
SLOW START BY DHAWAN
After Rohit Sharma was trapped lbw by pacer Junior Dala, fellow opener Shikhar Dhawan struggled to raise the tempo. He scored his first boundary in the 13th over of India’s innings but once he got his timing going, he hit two more boundaries before getting out for 47 off 40 balls.
RAINA PLAYS A GEM OF AN INNINGS
All-rounder Suresh Raina smashed the first ball he faced from Dala over fine leg for a six. He made use of the crease and made up for the struggling Dhawan by hitting 43 off 27 balls. His sparkling knock ultimately proved to be the winning factor.
PANDYA DRIES UP THE RUNS
While Hardik Pandya the batsman has not been as consistent as hoped, Pandya the bowler has gone from strength to strength. His spell of 1-22 from four overs was absolute gold as it pushed the Proteas almost out of the game. Using slower ones and cutters extensively, Pandya troubled every South African batsman and when he was done, the hosts needed 94 from 42 balls.
JONKER NEARLY PULLS IT OFF
Before the match started, not many would have heard of Christiaan Jonker. But by the end of the match, 31-year-old made sure every Indian player and franchise owner across the world would remember his name as he hit 49 from 24 balls, with five fours and two sixes, under extreme pressure to take his team to within one hit of an improbable win. It was only another superb final over – with 19 needed- by Bhuvneshwar Kumar (2-24 from four overs) that denied Jonker glory.
The Indian cricket team has won seven and lost four matches during their tour of South Africa with one T20 match to go. It has been a fairly successful tour for Virat Kohli’s team but the second T20 in Centurion, which the Indians lost, revealed previously unseen cracks within the set-up.
Three particular incidents during the second T20 have raised concerns about the dressing room atmosphere despite the Indian team enjoying a very good record across formats over the last season or so.
DHONI FLAYS PANDEY
The last person you would expect to lose his cool on the cricket field is wicket-keeper MS Dhoni. The glovesman has achieved pretty much everything as a captain and is now a senior member of the limited overs side. But during the final over of India’s first innings against South Africa, Dhoni tore into Pandey before taking strike as he felt Pandey was not being alert enough to go for the extra run or receive instructions from his partner.
Incidentally, Pandey scored 79 off 48 balls while Dhoni smashed the next three balls after that meltdown for six, four and four to end up with 52 off 28 balls. The video is quite painful to watch.
PANDYA AND KOHLI ADMONISH UNADKAT
In the 12th over of South Africa’s chase, South Africa captain JP Duminy flicked Hardik Pandya towards mid-wicket and scampered home for two. The fielder Jaydev Unadkat attacked the ball, picked it up and threw the ball towards the non-striker’s end.
However, for some reason, Pandya threw the ball away in disgust even though the fielder had done everything he could do to put the batsmen under pressure. Kohli also joined Pandya in admonishing the junior player.
PANDEY SAYS HE IS CRACKING UNDER PRESSURE
After India lost the match, Pandey attender the presser where he revealed his fragile state of mind, admitting the ongoing tour of South Africa has been particularly tough for him from a mental point of view as there is no certainty over his place in the side.
“Honestly, it’s a little tough and it works on your mind a lot. Especially on this tour I have felt it a lot actually,” Pandey said.
The middle order batsman then said, in jest, that he even had to consult a doctor. However, it is apparent Pandey is feeling the pressure as he is just a T20 batsman despite having a fine ODI record, scoring a fifty and a century in his first three 50-over outings.