IND vs SA: This Indian Team is in Transition, but the Building Blocks Are There

As wake-up calls go, they don’t come much more emphatic than this. India, having squandered their best chance in years to win a Test series in South Africa, were flat in a three-match One-Day International series that had no result to the Super League and were swept 3-0.

Where they could and should have been playing freely and joyously, allowing their talent and skill to be showcased, India were hesitant and almost diffident.

That there are problems with the make-up of the ODI team was painfully exposed by South Africa.

India vs South Africa: Full Coverage , Photos , Schedule , Results

In KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli at the first three batting positions, India have batters who like to accumulate, who plan to build towards something big each time they are out in the middle.

The problem with this proposition is that big monuments take time to build. And the most of these resources are used in getting the foundation right.

When three of your top batters don’t show urgency, it allows the opposition bowlers to settle into a rhythm and execute their plans. When three of your top batters are all playing with an eye to lasting the whole innings, it allows the bowlers to keep pegging away, knowing that wickets, when the batters are even on 50, will mean that more balls have been used up than were ideal, with new batters at the crease.

What was most difficult to watch, however, was how imbalanced the team appeared through the absence of just two players.

IND vs SA: High Time For India to Reset Their ODI Template?

There is no doubt that Rohit Sharma is a beast of a 50-over batters. He too is a builder, often starting very slowly, but the differentiating factor between him and the other three is how often he goes big, once he has done the early grind.

Aside from three double-centuries — one of which was as big as 264 — Rohit’s hundreds include scores of 141*, 138, 137, 150, 171*, 147, 137*, 152*, 162, 133, 140 and 159. this essentially means is that he largely does not leave games unfinished. When Rohit gets going, the others in the side merely need to bat around him.

This has not been the case with Rahul and Dhawan, and, to an extent Kohli as well. While Kohli’s mastery of the chase is well known, his recent ODI batting has not been at that elevated level.

The second missing piece in the puzzle is Ravindra Jadeja. With his left-arm spin, Jadeja addresses the issue of building pressure, keeping things tight and picking up wickets in the middle overs. With the bat, he gives the team the extra cushion they need when their top order have got starts but been unable to convert them into something big.

The good news for India is that both Rohit and Jadeja will be back, sooner rather than later. The bad news is that they will continue to miss matches and series from time to time, simply because the workload of this team is so high.

Also Read: Rahul Dravid Rues Absence of Ravindra Jadeja And Hardik Pandya

To that end, India cannot afford to bank on Rohit and Jadeja being there at all times to fix their ODI-team imbalance. What happens if either or both is injured right ahead of the 2023 World Cup?

The time to plan for how to keep the balance of the team right and develop players who can play a similar role — even of not like-for-like replacements — is now.

While the 3-0 loss to South Africa will hurt, there is little need to hit the panic button yet.

Rahul has just taken over as captain and he needs to be given time to mold the team as he sees fit. There have been instant comparisons between the styles of Kohli and Rahul as captain, and while this is expected, it is unfair on the new man.

It was not that long ago that Kohli’s in-your-face, aggressive and expressive brand of leadership, his demeanour on the field was coming in for criticism, with calls for him to tone it down.

Now, the suggestion is that Rahul is too laid-back, too relaxed, and does not have the presence and personality to be a leader. This is deeply unfair on Rahul. His primary job as captain is behind the scenes and with the team. If he can engage them and inspire them, if he can work with the think tank to plot out correct strategies that will grow the team, Rahul would have done his job.

There is a need for balance within the team, but equally, there is a need for balance in the expectations of this team. It is in transition, but the building blocks are there.

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