In Stats: India Should Worry About Rohit, Not Kuldeep & Chahal
Rohit Sharma has done very little against South Africa – definitely not on this tour, and very little earlier.
Host South Africa will be brimming with confidence as they head into fifth ODI against India on Tuesday, 13 February. The Proteas were down 0-3 in the series, prior to Saturday’s Pink ODI at Johannesburg, where they defeated Virat Kohli’s men in emphatic style to stay afloat in the series. The equation is exactly the same – as it was prior to Saturday’s match; Aiden Markram’s team are faced with yet another must-win game to keep the series alive.
After the confidence-boosting win at the Bullring, the smiles would have returned in the South African dressing room. After being dismal in the first three matches, the South African players turned in a clinical performance on 10 February. There is more reason for the Proteas to be cheerful; Tuesday’s ODI will be played at a venue where the hosts have barely lost a match. In 13 D/N ODIs at the St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth, South Africa have been beaten only twice.
On the other hand, the Indian team will see Tuesday’s match as an opportunity to create history; never before has an Indian team won an ODI at the St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth, and never before has an Indian team won an ODI series in South Africa. Virat Kohli and company have an opportunity to set both these records right come Tuesday evening.
The 3-1 series scoreline is a fair reflection of how the two teams have fared so far in the series.
In the first three ODIs, India were way superior compared to the hosts – with the bat and ball. In the previous ODI though, India – inconvenienced by interruptions and a wet outfield – did not play their best cricket. Though Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli stitched together a big partnership early on, the middle order could not capitalise and help the team to a big total. Where India should have scored at least 120 runs in the last 15 overs, they only managed to add 84 runs in that period, and eventually finished 289/7 – plenty short.
The performance of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav in the previous ODI should not be a reason to worry, and their performance should instead be seen as an aberration. Both the wrist spinners were bothered by the slippery ball – caused by the moisture in the outfield – and struggled for control. The short boundary on one side of the ground didn’t help their cause and they ended up conceding a total of 8 sixes in the match – twice the number they had conceded in the first three matches.
Port Elizabeth is expected to receive showers for a brief period on Tuesday, but the skies are expected to clear up by the time the match begins. Hence, India can expect their two wrist-spinners to resume normal service.
What India should worry about is the form of Rohit Sharma. The opener from Mumbai is supremely talented and can win matches single-handedly; but he has done very little of note against South Africa –definitely not on this tour, and very little earlier. His career batting average reads a dismal 24.48 in ODIs against SA; take out the 150 he scored against them in Kanpur in 2015, and his numbers will look even worse. In fact, in the 12 ODIs he has played against South Africa in their backyard, Rohit Sharma’s numbers are shocking; he averages 11.45 – with a highest score of 23!
One wonders if such poor numbers are the result of a mind block and because of not believing enough. Rohit Sharma is an integral cog in the Indian team’s plans – particularly looking ahead to the 2019 World Cup – and therefore the team management should persist with him, at least for now. Where Rohit himself is concerned, he should consciously look to employ the template that has worked well for him when he bats in the sub-continent; bat conservatively and see out the early overs, open out gradually and then accelerate. For starters, Rohit should look to survive against Kagiso Rabada – who has now dismissed him in the last three matches – and look to score at the other end initially.
Will Rohit be able to break the shackles and get a big score against South Africa in their backyard? Will the Indian spinners be able to impose themselves on the home team batsmen once again? Who will come up trumps in the contest between Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers? You can find all answers in our live blog here (http://www.thequint.com/sports). Match begins at 1630 Hrs IST.
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