India v South Africa, 6th ODI: Shaky Indian middle order too reliant on Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan: Amarnath

NEW DELHI: Former India allrounder Mohinder Amarnath, while lauding the Indian team’s landmark first ODI series victory in South Africa, believes that the brittleness of the middle order could cause major worries in a busy season.

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India wrapped up the six-match series on Tuesday with a game to spare, and Virat Kohli has led the batting with 429 runs in five innings, including two centuries and a half-century. However, barring Shikhar Dhawan’s 305 runs, the batting has been under-par. After four failures, Rohit Sharma scored his 17th ODI century in the last match, while Ajinkya Rahane has one fifty in four innings, MS Dhoni 69 in as many and Hardik Pandya a meagre 26 in four.

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Writing in his column for TOI, Amarnath praised Rohit’s ability to bounce back from a horrid run to score a match-winning century, but was worried about the Indian team’s dependence on Kohli and Dhawan.

“One of the best things to come out of Tuesday’s game is Rohit Sharma’s knock. He seemed a different player. The aggression was there, and he didn’t shy away from hitting those short balls which were bothering him earlier on this tour. He is one of those players who can convert a start into a big innings, and this was a crucial one as India needed someone in the top order to stand up. So far it has been Virat or Shikhar Dhawan who have been the main pillars on this tour,” wrote Amarnath, who scored 4378 Test runs with 11 centuries.

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“The Indian middle order is still a bit of a worry for me. So far, they have not really come to terms with the opponents, and the worry is that if the top-order fails, then what will happen? They need to be more consistent so that they can take the responsibility on themselves, should the situation demand.”

However, Amarnath was critical of Dhawan’s dismissal for a breezy 23-ball 34 which ended when he pulled Kagiso Rabada to deep square leg. “I was a bit disappointed at the way Shikhar got out. He should start applying himself like Virat, and look to carry deep into the innings. He’s a fantastic player and has done exceptionally well but he can do better. If he can stay till the end, things can only get better for India,” wrote the 67-year-old.

Leading the way with the ball have been the wrist-spinning pair of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, with 14 and 16 wickets respectively. Both have tormented South Africa’s batsmen and each bowler surpassed the previous best returns by an overseas spinner in an ODI series in South Africa, the 12 taken by former West Indian allrounder Keith Arthurton in 1999.

“Wristspinners are a very important part of the team, especially overseas where wickets are not usually conducive to spin. These two boys, Kuldeep and Chahal, have done very well right through. It is their bowling that changed the complexion of the whole series, especially if you take into consideration the number of wickets they have taken and the time taken to pick them up,” wrote Amarnath, who was part of India’s World Cup-winning team of 1983.

“South Africa rely too heavily on Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers, who are probably the only two players who really read Kuldeep and Chahal well. The others, honestly, seem to have no clue: there’s a lot of guesswork and slogging. That may work sometimes, but not all the time against quality spinners. Kuldeep and Chahal have managed to create doubt in their minds, leaving them to wonder how tackle them. This has been the difference and something that has helped India win in South Africa.”

The final ODI is on Friday at Centurion.

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