India began their home leg of the World Test Championship with a dominating win in the first of three Tests against South Africa. While Mayank Agarwal and Rohit Sharma starred with the bat, Mohammad Shami and Ravichandran Ashwin made news with their nagging lines that made life miserable for the visiting batters.
As India took a 1-0 lead in the series, here are the talking points from teh game.
The Rohit Sharma experiment succeeds
Two innings as an opener, two centuries. This is how Rohit Sharma’s first two innings in Test cricket as an opener went. The man, who was pushed for this role after India’s openers consistently failed recently, made his mark. The centuries could be described as the usual Rohit innings, where he batted time initially, before making his start count. Rohit’s bright start as an opener along with Mayank Agarwal’s runs have brought joy to the Indian fans given how poor the openers have been in the past year.
Rohit Sharma though started off his Test career with a bang scoring a century against West Indies way back in 2013. His average at home prior to this Test was behind only Don Bradman and Adam Voges — for batsmen to have batted in a minimum of 10 innings — so his ability to score runs at home was never in doubt. But the real task for him lies when he goes away from home – his average of 26.32 overseas is too poor.
India’s problem with the openers was not scoring runs at home, as the discarded trio of KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay averaged in excess of 35 in India. It was their inability to provide starts away from home that was the problem. Rohit’s run-scoring as an opener was bumper, but his real test will be on the tour of New Zealand early next year.
India’s dominant run at home continues
India’s win-loss ratio for this decade stands at 8.25 wins per loss at home, which is better than the second-best side Australia who have 3.66 wins per loss at their home ground.
India’s dominance at home lies with the spinners, but in no way can it ever be said that the spinners get conditions which assist them from day one. The spinners get assistance gradually as the Tests progress – the difference between the spinner’s average in the first two innings and the last two innings is 11.11 runs, which is the 4th highest after Australia, South Africa and England. The spinners in India have the lowest average (25.24) in the 3rd and 4th innings in this decade.
The batsmen just have to apply themselves and work hard for the runs, and with many countries not being able to have the quality of spinners India can afford, it’s never easy for them to come and dominate India in Tests here.
India’s troubles against the lower order, a myth?
There is a belief that India lets the opposition tail score too many runs, but this is far from the truth.
Since 2015, there have been 251 lower-order partnerships of over 50 runs in 2542 innings, which converts to 9.87% of all lower-order partnerships ending with a score of 50 or more. Opposition numbers against India in this period is 7.5% which is only behind South Africa (5.65%) and Ireland (6.25%). India has done a good job of cleaning up the opposition, and though there are times when the opposition tailenders do frustrate India, more often than not they are able to clean up the tail. These numbers are a huge improvement from the first half of the decade when India would let the lower order batsmen stitch partnerships of 50 or more 15% of the time, which was the worst among all the Test sides in the world.