Proteas seeking series whitewash

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Rain stopped play during the final One Day International between India and South Africa at SuperSport Park. Photo by: Anesh Debiky

Do the South Africans now turn the heat off India? Can Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men improve and show why they’ve been world cricket’s best one-day side for the past two years?

Defeats by 141 runs and 134 runs, which have sealed the short series for South Africa, have also shown India’s inability to adapt to conditions outside their comfort zones. The hammering at the Wanderers was somewhat understandable given that it came just three days after they’d landed in the country.

The Wanderers pitch was quick and had a lot of bounce and India bowled badly, although with a youthful attack that will happen. The outcome at Kingsmead though was inexcusable. Dhoni won the toss but instead of playing on South Africa’s latter-day weakness – their fragility when chasing – he inserted them. Yes, India’s strength is their batting, and in that regard, Dhoni may have felt he had the right to lean on their apparent ability to chase down any target. But in such a short series, and already 1-0 down, surely attacking the opposition’s weakness was an area that merited more consideration?

Hindsight being an exact science, it now seems obvious Dhoni should have gone that way, but he didn’t need that, all he needed was a peek at South Africa’s recent record – eight losses batting second – to tell him South Africa have a problem dealing with score-board pressure. It’s a problem the Indians have failed to exploit. Was that through a lack of research or just arrogance about their own batting ability?

Nevertheless, the final Momentum ODI in Centurion tomorrow evening is more about Dhoni’s men than it is about South Africa, though only marginally so. AB de Villiers’ side are still seeking consistency – though a recent record of seven wins from their last 10 ODIs would suggest otherwise – in the 50-over format. At least in the first two matches of the series, they seem to have found consistency at the top of the order in the shape of Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla. At Wanderers and Kingsmead their starts provided the foundation upon which two hefty totals were scored, which proved to be too much for the Indians.

Dhoni’s team are world champions, ICC Champions Trophy holders and ranked No1, and at some point they must start playing like that – and as tomorrow is their final chance to do so, it would be a timely reminder to viewers and themselves to offer proof as to why they’ve been successful in recent times.

Their batting hasn’t suddenly become bad. There’ve been glimpses from Dhoni, Suresh Raina and Ravichandaran Ashwin about the power in their line-up but they need the top order to perform tomorrow night in the manner they did against Australia recently.

Right now, the likes of Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, look like a trio of flat-track bullies, all talk and no game. They most certainly aren’t that – Kohli’s maiden Test century in Australia two years ago suggests a player who can achieve success away from home. Dhawan and Sharma are immensely clean strikers of a ball, but need to reign themselves in just a bit initially, to get accustomed to conditions before applying the pressure.

Of course that’s easier said than done. Sharma would argue he tried to remain patient at the Wanderers in the face of Dale Steyn’s mesmerising opening burst, but the pressure became unbearable.

De Villiers admitted before the opening ODI last week, that South Africa were short on confidence after the series defeat to Pakistan, so a whitewash – albeit a mini one – would be a tremendous boost to them as they seek some stability with the one-day unit.

India are in need of confidence ahead of the Test series, but more than that, they have to restore their credibility as a one-day side. - The Star

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