Bumrah Distracted, Shami Listless, Siraj Injured: How Could India Win Then?

India lost the second Test to South Africa by 7 wickets.

5 min read
Bumrah Distracted, Shami Listless, Siraj Injured: How Could India Win Then?

The loss in the second Test against South Africa at Johannesburg will hurt the Indian side for a long time to come.

They had an excellent opportunity to close out the series at the Wanderers and continue their unbeaten record in Tests at the venue. Instead, the Indian side will have to wait for one more week to see if they are able to script history in South Africa by winning a Test series for the first time in the Rainbow Nation.

The loss in the second Test will particularly hurt India because it came at the cost of their much-vaunted bowling line-up. The pace attack that India has carefully cultivated over the years is now the nation’s pride, especially in Test cricket.


India has put together a bowling line-up after a lot of careful consideration and provided a lot of joy over the past five years. This Test loss would be the biggest in this phase and that too when India had to defend a target. The bowling had been burdened with carrying the fortunes of India’s Test squad for a while.

An underperforming batting line-up, coupled with a captain who was unsure about what was happening around him was bound to result in disaster. Unfortunately for India it finally happened at the Wanderers in Johannesburg.

The biggest disappointment of the second Test was Jasprit Bumrah. He was newly minted as India’s Test vice-captain for this particular game. Just before the Test, Bumrah was named as vice-captain of the ODI side. So, he had all the responsibility that a fast bowler does not normally get in Indian cricket, officially.

But somehow the pressures and the responsibilities seemed to weigh the young man down. He seemed to be carrying the weight of the world when he was running into bowl. The sharp mind that he possesses was the highlight of the first Test when he produced magical spells to destroy South Africa.

But at Wanderers, Bumrah appeared distracted. His mind seemed preoccupied. A normally quiet guy who hardly speaks a word in anger, at least on the field, Bumrah’s pow wow with Marco Jansen, his Mumbai Indians teammate, was anindication of what was going through his mind. That was simply unacceptable from a senior pro, especially someone nominated as the vice-captain. Then Bumrah tried to strike massively at every ball and somehow lost focus. India could have benefitted from Bumrah’s presence along side Hanuma Vihari, but the Gujarat paceman’s mind was elsewhere.F

<div class="paragraphs"><p>File photo of Mohammed Shami during a Test match.</p></div>

File photo of Mohammed Shami during a Test match.

(Photo: BCCI)

Not just Bumrah, even Mohammed Shami appeared to be a shadow of his self. In fact, how fortunes turned for Shami is something of a study in itself. In the first Test, he was simply unplayable, but in Johannesburg he just did not seem to get the rhythm right. The radar was missing completely and that is a dangerous sign for Shami. He usually goes for plenty of runs when nothing seems to be working. Shami struggled throughout the Test and leaked runs. On the truncated fourth day when Lokesh Rahul needed Shami to be on the mark, it could not deliver. Dean Elgar & Co took Shami for runs and put the pressure back on India.

With his two premier fast bowlers struggling to get going, Rahul had no option to look elsewhere, but where would he look?


Mohammed Siraj started off brilliantly in the first innings. He would have had Elgar for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But the moment he held up his right hamstring late on the first day, the game was done for him. He was holding himself up and bowling throughout thereafter. He lacked the bite; the zip was missing and as a result he was proving to be easy pickings.

When nothing was happening for Siraj, he looked ordinary, of course you have to account for his fitness. Then his unacceptable behaviour compounded the misery with the ball. It was simply unavoidable that Siraj got into a scrap with Temba Bavuma for moving away before he bowled and the constant chatter with Elgar was unbecoming. This kind of behaviour smacks of a sense of entitlement on the part of Siraj.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Shardul Thakur struck twice in the morning session on Day 2 of the second Test.</p></div>

Shardul Thakur struck twice in the morning session on Day 2 of the second Test.

Image: ICC/Twitter  

With options running out for Rahul, Shardul Thakur proved to be the only ace in the pack for him. A consistent stock bowler, Thakur breaks partnerships when required, and holds an end up. His job in this attack is to provide relief to the big three. But instead, Thakur had to slip into the main strike bowler’s role. He did that quite effortlessly, but to expect Thakur to do that twice in a Test match would have been expecting a bit much. In the end, Thakur could not do much, because he received little or no support from the others.

Just how do you defend 240 with bowlers who were your strength struggling to get their radar right when it mattered most. India beat the bat more often than even the South Africans did. But the bounce and zip were missing in the Indian pace attack. That showed in the way the South Africans were not troubled consistently.

What also probably did not help was Rahul’s insipid captaincy. He had spread out fields at all times for the bowlers. There were no close-in fielders at any time for the quicker bowlers or Ravichandran Ashwin. The ball would jump off a length but fall in a safe spot as the fielders were out manning the deep areas.

The strategy was particularly baffling when Jansen and Keshav Maharaj were batting in the first innings. The field was spread out, an in-out field meant that the South African lower-order picked off runs at will, extending the lead. Though the overall lead was not much, the plot was lost by India at that time.

Even when the chase was on, Rahul let the game drift and provided no support to the bowlers when it mattered most. The same spread-out field was in play and the bowlers could do nothing more than pout ‘Ooohs and Aaahs’.

The usage of Ashwin also left a lot to be desired. In the second innings especially, Ashwin created a few doubts in the minds of the South African batters. But again, the same old story played out as Ashwin’s deliveries would kick but fall in a safe spot. India expects a lot more from their lead spinner especially after he made a stirring return to Test cricket away from home in Australia. With his statements before the series, Ashwin had put himself on the spot. Thus far he has shown intent with the bat, with the ball Ashwin cleaned up the first Test, but here if he had been used a lot better by the captain with more fielders around the bat, maybe who knows!

But despite these shortcomings, India has nothing to worry about, just yet. The series is still wide open with the scoreline being 1-1.

A couple of changes in the line-up and India should be good to go in the third Test at Cape Town.

The most important change could well be the return of Virat Kohli as captain. He brings energy on the field that was missing in the second Test. His attitude at times is also infectious as he never lets the guard drop.

The only point where Rahul scores over Kohli is the firmness with which he stood his ground against going in for reviews. Maybe that is the only reason why the bowlers will be keen for Kohli to return soon.

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