Cricket Column: Why South Africa keen to hit upon a plan India would like to ditch

Sports Saturday 10/June/2017 17:31 PM
By: Times News Service
Cricket Column: Why South Africa keen to hit upon a plan India would like to ditch

Soon after losing a match India were favourites to win, Virat Kohli came up with a “we are not invincible” line of excuse that sounded honest and matter-of-fact from every which way. Humility of the humbled, yes, but the South Africans are unlikely to miss the hint of understated confidence and arrogance in the Indian posturing.
Kohli was stating the obvious that nobody is invincible, but the pre-match hype in the wake of a spectacular victory against Pakistan last Sunday and what was on the scoreboard at the end of the Indian innings might have given a misleading idea -- that they were on course to an easy win against Sri Lanka -- to even Kohli. That perhaps explains the lack of bite in the Indian bowling performance.
India’s three frontline fast bowlers Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav and Jasprit Bumrah had a better average than their Lankan counterparts Lasith Malinga, Suranga Lakmal and Nuwan Pradeep.
Kumar gave away 5.4 runs per over, Bumrah 5.2 and Yadav 6.93, whereas all the three Sri Lankans yielded seven or more. But what hurt the Indian prospect was the number of wickets the pacers managed to get -- one -- in a match where they were defending a seemingly winning total of 321. Just one wicket for seven Indian bowlers, with the other two wickets coming in the form of runouts, and that’s a very bad case of a complete failure of the bowling unit and a horrible lapse on the part of the skipper to come up with an effective on-the-spot strategy.
This is something India need to take seriously in the must-win match against South Africa on Sunday. Dhoni, when he was at the helm, was famous for playing a waiting game -- waiting for the rival batsmen to make mistakes -- with a great degree of success, and it seemed Kohli was following in the footsteps of his former boss on Friday.
He waited too long for Kusal Mendis or Danushka Gunathilaka to give away their wicket which then, he hoped, would trigger a collapse, or a fall of wickets at regular intervals and an eventual victory for India. No harm sticking to a winning strategy, but some days you need to think outside the box. That, the power to do that, is what separates you from the ordinary.
If knockouts are those special days when captains need to be more innovative and inspiring than they normally are, the occasion is just right for Kohli to make amends for the Friday blues. If he is keen on adding that extra 20-run cushion to the total, the best way to make it happen is by being a little less flirty with passing dazzles outside his off stump against South African fast bowlers who are better than the Lankans at the art of wooing.
The stroke he tried to play against Pradeep, off the fifth ball he faced, was stupid, suggesting that there was a misplaced idea of an Indian invincibility about the whole affair we got to watch on Friday.
South Africa’s batting coach Neil McKenzie wants to cash in on Sunday with a solid foundation from the openers and a good platform from the middle order knocking the ball around. Obviously, South Africa are hoping to hit upon a plan India would be happy to ditch for a day.
The Indian blueprint for one-day games revolved around a safe start, a steady progress in the middle overs and a final blast. It came good against Pakistan and it nearly worked against Lanka. The 20-something boost could have come in a normal, entertaining way had Kohli stayed longer, had Yuvraj Singh got going and had Hardik Pandya bloomed. It makes sense for Kohli to stick to the Indian way than trying to ape an England or Australian extravagance.
The question, however, is not about how India or South Africa do it: the end, a semifinal spot, justifies the means.
The writer is a freelance contributor based in India. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman