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What South Africa need to learn from India after humiliating ODI series loss at home

Chopping and changing after the defeat in the ODI series will certainly not help South African cricket, which has already been hit by injuries and players’ exit, to move ahead.

Hashim Amla of South Africa
South Africa. (Photo by Shaun Roy/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

South Africa’s humiliating loss in the six-match One-Day International (ODI) series against India – something they experienced after 16 years since their 1-5 defeat to Australia in 2001 – has earned criticism from the country’s former greats and the media. This defeat was not expected after the Proteas defeated India 2-1 in the Test series and the home team was found scrambling for answers as to what hit them in the 50-over format.

Amid the despair, the words from Hashim Amla, the opening batsman whose run-out in the fifth ODI was considered to be the turning point of the match, that the defeat will bring South Africa’s feet back on the ground and prepare them better for the 2019 World Cup are the most realistic. Speaking ahead of the academic final ODI, Amla said that defeats like this make one more focused and South African cricket would only go up from this point.

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India had faced a similar experience in 2000, against the same SA

That Amla’s words make sense has been proved elsewhere. The Proteas can take a look at India’s own similar experience in the past. They were annihilated 2-0 in a home series by a strong South African team led by the late Hansie Cronje in early 2000, ending their proud record of staying unbeatable at home for 13 years (since Imran Khan’s Pakistan won the 1987 series). It was a period of real chaos in Indian cricket.

The defeat to South Africa came just after the humiliation in Australia where India were thrashed in Tests by Australia and in ODIs by Australia and Pakistan. The cumulative effect of these non-stop defeats showed on the then skipper Sachin Tendulkar who quit in the middle of the South African series with a devastated mind. Indian cricket was in a limbo at that point of time with the God relinquishing captaincy for the second time in two-and-half years.

The selectors then opted for Sourav Ganguly and the course of India’s cricket changed forever since then. Ganguly went on to become a captain who changed the face of their cricket as the team also started winning abroad – a legacy later sustained by his successors Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virat Kohli.

On the other hand, Tendulkar became a more prolific scorer as he played with a free mind in the Ganguly era. He, in fact, was judged as the man of the series in the ODI series that India won 3-2 after losing the Test series. The stability that India saw in the years of Ganguly also them going to play the finals of the next World Cup in 2003.

The current South African side can certainly take lessons from India’s story and build from here on, following prescriptions from Amla and former greats like Jacques Kallis. The Proteas have a decent bowling attack but it is their batting which has let them down. The return of the likes of Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock will strengthen their batting undoubtedly but they would need to hone their skills against spin bowling, something that has always rattled the South Africans.

Aiden Markram can be the man of future, just like Graeme Smith

South Africa should also invest more in Aiden Markram, who has just started his ODI career but already made captain in the absence of du Plessis, the regular skipper. Markram has a proven record in captaincy as he had led South Africa to their maiden U19 World Cup title in 2014. He was also picked as the man of the series in that tournament for his good batting form which suggests that the man is capable of handling the twin pressures of captaincy and batsmanship. It is not the first time that South Africa has seen a change of captaincy in a time of crisis.

In 2000, Shaun Pollock had taken over the reigns from Cronje in the wake of the match-fixing scandal while in 2003, Graeme Smith took over from Pollock after the Proteas faced a debacle in the World Cup played at home the same year. Smith particularly went for a long stint of eight years in ODIs besides 11 years in the Tests, establishing himself as one of the finest captains of not only South Africa but in the history of the game.

They will be wise to invest more time in Markram and allow the 23-year-old as the leader of the future. Chopping and changing after the defeat in the ODI series will certainly not help South African cricket, which has already been hit by injuries and players’ exit, to move ahead.

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