An all-round India dominance

A jubilant Indian team poses with the Freedom Series trophy after blanking South Africa 3-0 in Ranchi on Tuesday. PTI

South African skipper Faf du Plessis had no qualms in admitting that Indian team’s ruthlessness left his side mentally weak towards the end of the three-match Test series. The Indians showed no mercy. The series scoreline and the records shattered by Virat Kohli’s men have enhanced their credibility as the No 1 Test side.

On the fourth morning of the third and final Test, it only took ten minutes and two overs for India to complete a 3-0 series sweep. Debutant Shahbaz Nadeem (2/22 & 2/18) capped off a memorable debut by picking up the last two wickets as South Africa, resuming from 132/8 (following on), folded for 133. And for the second successive time, the Proteas suffered an innings defeat, an innings and 202 runs being the margin, here at the JSCA International Stadium Complex.

India have produced startling numbers with the triumph. In 51 Test matches under Kohli, India are winners on 31 occasions. They are now owners of the world record of consecutive series wins (11) at home. But India’s annihilation of South Africa, the third-ranked team in Tests, is way more significant than these impressive statistics. The unique factor in India’s dominance was their brilliant all-round show.

The batsmen plundered runs, giving their bowlers huge totals to defend. Three batsmen in Rohit Sharma (529), Mayank Agarwal (340) and Kohli (317) topped 300 runs. The bowlers responded well. The top four in the highest-wicket takers’ list – R Ashwin (15), Mohammed Shami (13), Ravindra Jadeja (13) and Umesh Yadav (11) -- are Indians. And it tells how collectively the bowling department operated.

“I think this is the perfect series performance," said Kohli after the match. "We have had good series in the past as well but I would say this is at par with the most balanced performances we have ever had. As a team, you can't ask for anything more. Batsmen getting runs, spinners and fast bowlers getting wickets, Saha coming back and keeping the way he did. So yes, it was great from that point of view. We applied a lot of pressure on the opposition. We kept focusing on the positives and I don't think we allowed them to get into a contest at any point of the series,” Kohli explained.

The pre-series talks heavily revolved around India’s reputation of rolling out spin-friendly tracks. South Africa, who were hammered 3-0 in the four-match series last time in India four years ago, would have expected to play on similar dust bowls. However, in this series it was evident that India used the conditions to their advantage. The fast bowlers held their own and powered the Indian march. With two centurions in the first Test in Visakhapatnam, the visitors can't complain of tough tracks to bat on. For a change, spinners didn't grab the complete spotlight.  

“It’s about showcasing your skills. For example, the Ranchi pitch wasn’t like it only favoured the batsmen or the fast bowlers. It is difficult to explain the exact nature of the pitch but it was a pitch that gave you required results once you had put your plans in place. Test cricket needs such pitches where all three departments come useful,” Kohli offered.

It’s not all about just the conditions, as shown by the Indian pacers. With their sustained aggression and hunger, they suffocated the rival batsmen. Even in unhelpful conditions, their discipline helped them succeed.

“I think it’s the mindset,” Kohli began about his pacers. “If two people believe we can score hundreds on a green wicket, then they will. So in the same way, if the fast bowlers believe they can make something happen even if there is nothing in the pitch they really can make it happen. Because that's the kind of effort you are bowling with. They want challenges. Even if the ball is doing a little bit, they ask for the ball. They immediately want to make an impact,” Kohli explained,

India are on top of the World Test Championship table with 240 points and it’s a result of a culture created over the years, felt Kohli. “We have created a culture where the players do not think of individual performances and perform for the team. We want to keep raising the standard of Indian cricket,” he said.

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