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Tour of many positives for India 

New Delhi: Virat Kohli’s stupendous run with the bat, Jasprit Bumrah showing he’s as good with red ball as with the white, and the identification of the core group for the 2019 World Cup are some of the notable positives of India’s tour of South Africa. It’s after many years that an Indian team has lived up to the expectations outside the Subcontinent, winning two out of the three formats. While India yet again failed in their attempt to win their maiden Test series in South Africa, a stupendous 5-1 win in the ODI series, followed by a 2-1 victory in the shortest format, made the tour a pretty rewarding experience.

Bowlers have a ball

That India managed to dismiss South Africa in all six innings in three Tests remains the most heartening aspect of the tour. Mohammed Shami (15 wickets from 3 games), Jasprit Bumrah (14 from 3), Bhuvneshwar Kumar (10 from 2) and Ishant Sharma (8 from 2 games) accounted for 47 of the 60 wickets, a massive feat for the nation not known to throw up enough fast bowling talent.  “Bumrah fits perfectly into the ideal eleven for us. He is someone who has given us breakthroughs when wanted in the series and he has bowled his heart out,” the Indian captain had said after the end of the Test series. “He really wanted to play Test cricket badly and has shown what a high-class bowler he is. He probably bowled with the experience of a guy who has played 40-50 games.” 

Kohli’s magical run

The batting certainly wasn’t up to the mark in the Tests, save for skipper Kohli who finished with 286 runs, 75 runs more than AB de Villiers’ next best of 211. Kohli neither changed his aggressive brand of captaincy nor his propensity to tinker with the playing XI in every game. In hindsight, his faith in Rohit Sharma’s talent over Ajinkya Rahane’s temperament during the first two Tests did seem misplaced and came in for sharp criticism. Nevertheless, as a batsman, he hardly put a foot wrong. If he was good in the Tests, he was simply breathtaking in the ODIs, scoring a staggering 558 runs with the help of three centuries. 

World Cup template

Going forward, India got their core group for the World Cup next year on the tour. The two young wrist-spinners, Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, showed they could pick wickets outside the Subcontinent too. With Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar as the established new-ball bowlers and Hardik Pandya the all-rounder, the five-man bowling attack looks settled. As for the batting, it’s become clear that MS Dhoni isn’t going anywhere until after the World Cup, and Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit and Kohli are the automatic top-3 in the line-up. There are two slots up for grabs in the middle-order, and India have at least five options for them. Ajinkya Rahane, due to his success at No.  4 during the 2015 World Cup in Australia, is being considered for the role even though his strike-rate in the middle overs has repeatedly come under the scanner. Manish Pandey has done nothing wrong in the limited chances he has got, Kedar Jadhav is an attacking batsman and handy off-spinner, Shreyas Iyer has shown promise, and veteran Suresh Raina, too, has proved that he’s not done yet.

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