There is a fine line between being assured and being cocksure. The current Indian team led by the restless Virat Kohli is skewed towards the latter. The expectation that the tour of South Africa would be game-changing and the beginning of India’s dominance in overseas Tests, has gone south.
Accepted, that the team has kept itself in the game in both the Tests, but only just. Apart from that, there appears no drastic difference between the previous touring Indian teams and the current crop. All the same, the only blatant difference has been with regard to the tall claims made in press conferences and elsewhere.
Here is a look at five signs that show that the Indian team is plagued by overconfidence.
How many specialist slip fielders does a team have? Four, five maybe. The state of the present Indian squad is such that KL Rahul, Dhawan, Pujara, Rohit, Ashwin, Murali Vijay and Kohli himself, all have tried their hand at slip fielding.
It is noteworthy that slip fielding is an occupation that demands both skill and temperament. You may be a terrific fielder in the outfield but that does not make you an automatic choice for the slips. It’s high time that the team stops playing around with such an important position. Specific roles must be assigned to individuals, once and for all.
All great teams, be it the West Indies of the 70’s and 80’s or the Aussies in the first decade of this century, had one thing in common. Once they were on top of the game, they never gave the opposition even a sniff at a win
Even when they were a bit down, they would bounce back more often than not through sheer perseverance.
Here lies the lesson for Kohli and Co: to keep striking at the wall until it breaks. Indians have been good in patches in the first two Test matches. There have been sessions in which Shami or Bumrah have raised their hand and bowled some unplayable spells. There have been one or two instances where Indian batsmen, Kohli in particular, have shown that they have the game to stick it out in hostile conditions.
The thing that has been lacking is that they haven’t been consistent in their efforts. This is what has caused the opposition to seize the momentum and run away with the match eventually.
Whether on the field or in interviews, if there is one thing that has been consistent over the course of the series, it has been an overdose of aggression. In this aspect as well, the captain has led the team from the front. The only problem is that the aggression has been more in words and less in deeds.
Aggression is not only about what you speak or in the way you give it back to the opposition. It is more in the intent you show.
It is not only about hitting boundaries and smashing the ball in Pandya style. It is also about defending positively and taking quick singles to move the game forward. It is not only about bowling bouncers and intimidating the opposition with pace. It is also about bowling tight line and lengths and making it virtually impossible for the batsmen to score.
The seeds of the conundrum regarding the team selection had been sown in the first Test itself. Playing Hardik Pandya was a gamble that worked in favour of India in the first Test. In hindsight, the team would have been much better off if Pandya had failed.
This now has created a dilemma for the team management. India has traditionally played six batsmen on overseas tours. This gives them a cushion in the seaming and swinging conditions. Playing Pandya in place of an extra batsman has left the batting vulnerable. It is something that has been thoroughly exploited in all four innings.
As a result, the team has been bowled out for paltry scores.
By including Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Hardik Pandya in the playing XI in Cape Town, India shot itself in the foot. Dropping Bhuvneshwar Kumar, the hero of the first Test, in Centurion did not help the team’s cause either. This self inflicted trouble has done India irreparable harm.
As a result, half of the players are playing for their place in the side. The likes of Rahane and Bhuvi are sitting on the sidelines doubting their ability. Those who are playing are not sure whether they would feature in the next game. This has led a sense of insecurity to creep in among the team.