South Africans are desperate to find ways to counter the guile of India’s latest spin twins Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal even as they are unable to contain Virat Kohli with the bat. The question is will they be able to rework their strategy and find answers before the six-match ODI series is over, having already been outclassed in the first three games?
Like all good teams, the hosts refuse to believe the series is over. They feel they can still salvage something from the remaining matches and tie the series. They hope they can fight back just like the Indians did in the Test series, with the expected return of AB de Villiers for the fourth match on Saturday providing a boost.
As for India, Yadav and Chahal have shown that quality spinners can excel in all conditions. It is debatable whether Indian spinners ever held such sway outside the subcontinent. The two, who seem to revel in the success of the other, have claimed 21 out of the 27 wickets that have fallen so far, though they should not be judged on the basis of their showing against a depleted side.
Skipper Kohli is as bemused at his two young spinners’ performance as the South African batsmen. Like many, he was also a bit stunned to see the two literally demanding the ball and tossing it up as if batsmen approached them with both legs tied at the ankles! It is not that the batsmen did not try to take the fight to the opposition, but nothing has worked. They tried to charge but could not get to the pitch of the ball. They tried to pull and cut but ended up playing to a tight field.
Kohli could only surmise over the two spinners’ future with a caveat that a lot can happen between now and the 2019 World Cup. He did not rule out the chances of other spinners who are on a forced sabbatical. The beauty of the two spinners is that they are able to protect the fast bowlers. Still, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah are doing their bit by taking the odd wicket at crucial stages.
Kohli, the batsmen, is simply unstoppable. His glorious run with the bat keeps continuing. Last year, with 1,460 runs in 26 matches at a staggering 76.84 average, he was the highest ODI run-getter. Six hundreds and seven 50s make the tally amazing. He started the New Year with a brilliant ton in Durban and an unbeaten 160 at a shade better than run-a-ball at Newlands.
Nothing has been going right for the South Africans after their defeat in the third Test. On a pitch where they thought their bowlers would undermine Indian batsmen, it turned out to be the other way round. Their own batsmen found the Indian attack quite a handful. Worse, their best bat for all seasons, AB de Villiers, injured his right index finger and missed the first three ODIs. They lost their captain Faf du Plessis in the first match, who also injured his right index finger and he will miss all remaining matches. They are now dependent on Hashim Amla, Jean Paul Duminy and David Miller.
While the seniors are on a high, the junior India team has done their cerebral coach Rahul Dravid proud by winning the World Cup in New Zealand. And Dravid is not one to be carried away. He told the boys that the triumph at Tauranga should not be their “defining memory” as they all have a lot to achieve in their careers.
He has also set an example for not only players but also for officials when he said that he was not happy with the discrimination in rewarding him `50 lakhs while providing the support staff with much less. That’s the kind of mentorship the youngsters benefit from.
Veturi Srivatsa is a senior journalist and the views expressed are personal. He can be reached at