India vs South Africa | Talking points from Day 1 of Johannesburg Test

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India vs South Africa | Talking points from Day 1 of Johannesburg Test

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Bastab K Parida

01/24/2018

South Africa took the honours on the opening day of the Johannesburg Test, bundling India out for a paltry 187 despite Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara hitting half-centuries. However, Bhuvneshwar Kumar dismissed Aiden Markram for 2 as the hosts ended the day with scorecard reading 6/1.

Kohli’s flawed 50

Johannesburg has always been a memorable ground for India - be it their first ever Test win in South Africa in 2006 or lifting the T20 World Cup in 2007, or even their unbeaten Test record at the venue. On the eve of the match, Kohli even talked about how special a venue that Wanderers has been and their “intent” to finish the series on a winning note. 

However, with India being 13/2 in the first nine overs, Kohli, alongside Cheteshwar Pujara, had the big task of reviving the innings that had been left in tatters. While Pujara took his own sweet time to get off the mark - 54 balls - Kohli showed more urgency in his approach and tried driving every time there was a ball to be hit. He went on to score his 18th Test half-century on a wicket which had a visible tinge of green cover on it. However, it was not the usual flawless Kohli innings as one would have expected. 

When the Indian skipper was on 11, he was beaten by the sheer pace of Kagiso Rabada and was late on the shot as the ball hit toe-end of the bat and went right up in the air. While that could have been an easy catch for Vernon Philander, Aiden Markram also ran in from the cover-point region and the duo failed to make sure who was going to take the sitter. By the time Philander decided to go for the dive, it was too late. 

Giving Kohli a life has always been a painful exercise as the Indian decided to teach that to his counterparts in his own inimitable style. The 29-year-old played some exuberant cover drives after that. However, Morne Morkel kept bowling with a particular plan – outside off-stump with enough bounce. The pacer bowled a ball too wide which took the toe end off the blade, but AB de Villiers put him down at third slip as the ball dipped on him rather late. After getting two lives, Kohli failed to make that count as Lungi Ngidi drew the edge from Kohli and despite the catch nearly blew de Villiers off his feet, the African talisman didn’t miss it this time to bring the curtains down on an unusual Kohli innings today.  

Are South Africa really the best fielding side in the world 

It is a general consensus that South Africa has been the best fielding side in the world at the moment. They have the sharpest wicketkeeper in the world along with three of the safest pair of hands at the moment - Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers. On the field, the South African fielders have the ability to produce some magnificent, almost logic-defying moments that would take your breath away.  

However, there is not the full story and some uncomfortable truths that occurred on the field are sure to come up in the team meeting today. While they have dropped no fewer than five catches today, their ground fielding was not off to the mark and was sufficient to bring the memories of the fourth Test against England in Old Trafford in August where they dropped seven catches during the course of the two innings in the match. In the series against Bangladesh before that, the home side dropped as many as seven catches in the series which leaves a question mark on their status as the “best fielding side in the world”. 

Today, while Philander was criminal for dropping Kohli, AB also missed an easy catch of his IPL skipper before there were some easy drops on the outfield. The fielders are not that smart on the outfield giving the Indian batsmen some easy runs. While the players still have the ability to take some catches which will take your breath away, the side still need to pull up their socks to leave up to the expectations. 

It’s time to scrap the Umpire’s call altogether

The initial idea of third umpire going with the umpire’s call on DRS is to discourage the cricketers from going for marginal reviews and maintain the sanctity of the on-field umpires. While this makes sense partially, but one wonders how unfair is it for the batsman or bowler involved.  

When Philander hit Pujara on the pad, the umpire ruled it not out and once the hosts went for the review, HawkEye confirmed that the ball clipped the off bail and while the umpires call helped the South Africans retain their review, it deprived them for a possible wicket. The review obviously can’t be considered a bad review and it is also unfair to for the fielding unit. However, pretty much like the law of averages, Ajinkya Rahane was given out on an umpire’s call. While more than 50% of the ball missed the leg-stump, the slight clip on the side of leg stump meant the umpire's call stood and Rahane had to go. 

And when you know you have a perfect decision to go for, going for the umpire’s decision does make very little sense. If the only intention them restrict from making bad DRS decision, they have only two reviews in their kitty and they will not want to mess it up. And that’s why, it’s high time for the ICC to rethink the same. 

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