Acclimatize - a word that has often been used by Indian skippers to camouflage their failures abroad. MS Dhoni has been using that word for quite some time now. While the Indian media often goes gaga as to how the Ranchi dynamo has brought laurels for the Indian team with each passing year, Dhoni’s record abroad, especially in Tests, is something which raises serious question marks over his captaincy.
While Team India’s stupendous show in ODIs in 2013 healed the wounds left by the team’s pathetic show in two away series, the two-match Test series between India and South Africa is something which could possibly bring back the memories of India’s troublesome stay abroad.
And touring South Africa isn’t easy. The batsmen not only have to acclimatize to the seaming conditions, but also have to tackle the bounce, as there isn’t any respite against the Proteas pace attack. The Dale Steyn-led fearsome bowling line up, boasts of some other big names like Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander who are equally dangerous on the home ground. While Steyn and Philander have the knack of getting enough purchase from a seaming wicket, Morkel is someone who can intimidate the best of the batsmen with a barrage of bouncers.
In the ODI series, when South Africa scored above 300 runs in the first match, the Indian fans probably expected some more hitting from the in-form Indian batsmen. While we all knew it won’t be easy on the bouncy track, nobody expected the kind of humiliation the team witnessed.
Steyn bowled a brilliant first over where Rohit Sharma failed to connect with a single delivery. A lot was expected from Virat Kohli, but the man who has slammed five ODI tons in 2013, could have been dismissed for a first-ball duck. Steyn bowled another superb delivery, where he invited Kohli for a drive off a good length delivery that nipped away and surprised the right-hander.
Yes, the South African pitches are quite different from the Wankhede, or the Feroz Shah Kotla. Yes, we have the habit of seeing our team struggle when they tour abroad. But then, they are the number one team in ODIs and they clearly lacked the fighting intent throughout the ODI series.
The Indian team couldn’t bat for 50 overs in both the ODIs. In the first two ODIs, the hosts batted for 100 overs, lost just ten wickets, and amassed 638 runs. On the other hand, the in-form young Indian batting line-up, could last for just 76.1 overs, where they lost all twenty wickets, and could score just 363 runs. While AB de Villiers and his boys slammed three centuries and as many half-centuries, Team India’s highest score came from their skipper (65 runs), and the second highest individual score came from Suresh Raina, who scored 36 in the second match.
MS Dhoni would be a worried captain. He should be. The last time when he toured abroad, he had legends like Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid who would use their years of experience to salvage some pride for the team. But the current squad lacks experienced campaigners, and the way they played in ODIs, it is difficult to imagine what would happen in the two Tests.
Despite his brilliant record as a skipper, Dhoni would be aware of the kind of pressure he witnessed, when India lost eight consecutive Tests against Australia and England. He would find himself in a similar situation now. The man who has led India to win all the ICC trophies, would be currently hoping for a one more miracle – a decent performance by the team in Tests. That’s possible only if they manage to “acclimatize”.