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South Africa's Quinton de Kock plays a cover drive during his knock of 78 in the second One Day International against India at Boland Park in Paarl on Friday. Image Credit: AFP

India went into the second One Day International (ODI) to save the series after going down easily in the first ODI. You would expect India to put in a fight on a pitch, which had slowed down drastically by the end of the first ODI.

India, after winning the toss and electing to bat, got a good start and the brilliance of Rishabh Pant and a late cameo by Shardul Thakur took India to 287 at the end of their innings, which was nine runs short of what South Africa had scored in the first ODI. So it is expected that the Men in Blue would defend the total easily with experienced spinners in Ravichandran Ashwin and Yuzvendra Chahal and their go to bowler Jasprit Bumrah on a wearing pitch.

But when India came on to bowl, the energy was missing. Quinton de Kock capitalised on the missed opportunity given by Pant and South Africa seemed to be playing on a different pitch. By the time de Kock fell, the hosts were 132 in 22 overs.

After the breakthrough, one expects the team to fight back with some smart captaincy and energy, bring in Chahal to bowl to the new batter Temba Bavuma. Instead, Rahul continues with Ashwin, who goes for 18 runs in his next two overs. The bowler Shardul Thakur, who got the breakthrough after giving away just 12 runs in three overs, is taken off and Venkatesh Iyer is brought in. The captaincy was truly baffling and South Africa were racing along to 211/2 by the end of 34 overs. The commentators on air found the whole Indian team deflated, barring Pant who seemed to be the only one egging on the team. There was no energy nor enthusiasm and India allowed the game to just slip away from their grasp.

Similarly, while batting Rahul allowed part time off-spinner Aiden Makram to bowl eight overs for just 34 runs. India were going at less than five runs an over after a good start till Pant took the attack to the opposition. Rahul, in spite of getting three chances, did not capitalise and got out to a soft dismissal for 55 off 79 balls at a strike rate of 69.

One can understand he was playing the anchor role to Pant, but had to carry on milking singles. Pant got out in the next over and India, who were looking good to score 330, ended up at 287. Thakur and Ashwin put on a crucial 48-run partnership to take India to a respectable total, but de Kock’s opening salvo and Rahul’s unimaginative captaincy led India to another sorry loss to the match and the ODI series too to an inexperienced South African team.

A whitewash looks very much on the cards as the Indian team looks flat and deflated with no energy and looks like the old Indian team, who used to be a poor travellers overseas in the early 1990s.

— Cricket enthusiast Anis Sajan is Vice-Chairman of Danube Group