In Stats: India Should Back Rohit & Dhawan For Centurion Test
The Indian team is aware that they cannot afford to get one move wrong when the second Test against South Africa begins on Saturday, 13 January. And that’s not only because they are trailing 1-0 in the 3-Test series — having lost a fiercely-contested series opener in Cape Town by 72 runs. It is also because the Test match will be played at the Centurion Park, which is the South African team’s fortress.
In the 23 years that the venue has hosted Test matches, only twice have visiting teams claimed victories. England clinched a 2-wicket win in a Test match played in 2000; this after the two captains – South Africa’s Hansie Cronje and England’s Nasser Hussain – came to an unconventional agreement and forfeited an innings each after rain had consumed plenty of playing time. Thereafter, it was not until 2014 that a visiting team won a Test match at Centurion; on that occasion, the Michael Clarke-led Australia defeated the hosts by a margin of 281 runs.
In all of 22 matches played at the venue, the hosts have registered 17 wins – several of them by huge margins.
Notes From Cape Town
Rewind to the Cape Town Test, and India started the series like they have seldom done in the past. The Indian bowlers, Bhuvneshwar Kumar in particular, had the hosts in all kinds of trouble. By and large, the Indian bowlers did their job well; they dismissed the home team twice – conceding only a total of 416 runs in two innings.
The bowlers created an opportunity from where the batsmen could drive home the advantage; the batsmen had the rare opportunity to win a Test match overseas. India had to score 208 to win the Test match. But the technique of the batsmen was found to be woefully inadequate for the second time in the match; Team India was bowled out for 135 – with Ravichandran Ashwin’s 35 being the top-score of the innings.
Numbers best illustrate the dismal performance of the Indian batsmen. Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay average in excess of 40 runs in Test cricket, while Cheteshwar Pujara and skipper Virat Kohli boast of batting averages in excess of 50 runs. Yet, in Cape Town, the quartet only lasted for a total of 240 balls and contributed a total of 109 runs, both innings put together. Among the eleven players who made the Indian line-up, it was Bhuvneshwar Kumar who batted the longest.
Should Team India React?
So playing catch-up with the hosts, what should Team India’s approach be in Centurion? Following the defeat in Cape Town, should the tour selection committee relook at the XI they chose? Should the technically sound KL Rahul be picked ahead of Shikhar Dhawan? Should Ajinkya Rahane be recalled in place of Rohit Sharma? Should the Indian team better utilise the spot used up by Ravichandran Ashwin, who only bowled 8.1 overs at Newlands?
Yes, India ended second best in Cape Town, but that definitely doesn’t call for a knee-jerk reaction. The batsmen failed miserably, but that doesn’t mean they are bad cricketers. They have made it to the international level because they possess a certain degree of skill.
Dhawan and Rohit may not have the watertight technique and temperament that KL Rahul and Ajinkya Rahane possess. But on days when Dhawan and Rohit fire, they can put an enormous amount of pressure on the opposition and can destroy them in a matter of minutes.
There has been a lot of hue and cry about the management’s selection of Rohit ahead of Rahane. Players often demand selection into the team for the runs they score and wickets they take. Extending the same logic, a player deserves to warm the bench and be left out for lack of form. And that’s exactly what the team management has done to Rahane.
The Mumbai lad had a woeful series against Sri Lanka – topping 10 in five innings; even if you were to disregard the low scores. Those who watched Rahane bat in that series could see that he was lacking confidence.
And in the first Test in Cape Town, when the Indian team was trying to take an aggressive approach, they definitely didn’t want a player who was low on confidence.
Despite the defeat in Cape Town and all the uproar by cricket pundits, one expects Ravi Shastri and Virat Kohli to continue to show their confidence in Dhawan and Rohit and include them in the India XI on Saturday, 13 January.
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