In­dia is win­ning, but not quite turn­ing the cor­ner

Hindustan Times (Delhi) - - COMMENT -

In­dian cricket’s big win in South Africa is his­toric, and yet un­der­whelm­ing

To call In­dia’s one-day in­ter­na­tional se­ries win against South Africa his­toric will be no ex­ag­ger­a­tion. This is the first time that In­dia has won a bi­lat­eral se­ries in South Africa. The vic­to­ries were crush­ing; In­dia em­phat­i­cally dom­i­nated the se­ries; and In­dia’s con­trol over the pro­ceed­ings is ev­i­dent from the 4-1 score line with one game still left to play.

Vi­rat Kohli has been in thrilling form. He is now notch­ing up records in the way a fre­quent flier clocks up air miles. Af­ter be­ing in­fu­ri­at­ingly poor, Ro­hit Sharma won In­dia the fifth game. Both he and Shikhar Dhawan have shown that, were they to be con­sis­tent, In­dia could have the most fear­some open­ing bat­ting com­bi­na­tion in the lim­ited-overs game. The real de­light­ful sur­prise, though, has come in the form of the two wrist spin­ners, Yuzven­dra Cha­hal and Kuldeep Ya­dav. The duo has put on a stun­ningly in­ci­sive per­for­mance. They have ac­counted for 30 of the 41 wick­ets In­dia have taken in the five games of the se­ries. With­out rich ex­pe­ri­ence, in alien con­di­tions, they have been the real dif­fer­ence be­tween the two sides.

Why, then, does it not feel as though a cor­ner has been turned? Why doesn’t it feel as epochal as the win in the 1985 World Cham­pi­onship of Cricket? Or, at least, like the Natwest Tro­phy in 2002? Well, for starters, In­dia has now ac­quired what in sport is known as the win­ning habit. They came to South Africa as the world’s No 2 ODI side. They now are No 1. We ex­pect In­dia to win. Sec­ond, while you can only play the op­po­si­tion you are given, this South Africa side has been se­verely di­min­ished by AB de Vil­liers and Faf du Plessis not be­ing al­ways avail­able. But what leaves the lin­ger­ing af­ter­taste of feel­ing un­der­whelmed is that, had Kohli not been stub­born and got his team se­lec­tion right in the Test se­ries , had he not dropped Bhu­vnesh­war Ku­mar in the sec­ond and Ajinkya Ra­hane in the first two Tests, In­dia might have won the Test se­ries. Now, that would have felt like turn­ing a cor­ner.

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