Mohit Sharma was one of many Indian players to have a baptism by fire.
The outpouring of genuine grief at the passing away of Nelson Mandela tells you how much the great man was loved all over the globe.
The cricket matches played all around the world, even if it did not involve a South African team, had a moment’s silence, and the teams wore black arm bands to show their grief. Being in South Africa, one can see some old footage of the struggle against apartheid and the time of Mandela’s release from the prison where he spent 27 years inside a tiny room. That he came out of that hell hole and still had no bitterness tells you what a forgiving heart he had. It was because of that attitude, and his desire for reconciliation with the white minority, that South Africa finds itself growing and not fighting a civil war.
His one gesture of wearing the Springbok jersey for the final of the Rugby World Cup in 1995 united and brought together South Africa like nothing else.
It was around the time that Mandela breathed his last, the final Indian wicket also fell to cap a terrific day for the home team. The South Africans have not had the best of results in the one-dayers this year, and they had just lost 2-1 to Pakistan in the ODI series that concluded a few days before the first game against the Indians.
It was the first time that Pakistanis had won a one-day series in South Africa and it was thanks mainly to their bowling. India's bowlers will have to bowl a lot better than they did in the first one-day game if they are going to be a factor in the tour. Bhuvneshwar Kumar will get thrashed if he does not get the ball to swing in the early overs, for he does not have the pace to bowl the yorker and still has not developed a well-disguised slower delivery to fool the batsman looking to go for the big heave. Mohit Sharma has looked totally out of place, and his pace is just right for the batsmen when they are throwing their bats at just about everything.
Mohammed Shami has been the lone bright spark in an attack that was taken to the cleaners in the first one-dayer at Johannesburg.
Even as the Indian batting floundered against the steep bounce and pace that the South African bowlers generated, what was disappointing about the display was the resigned air that it had about it.
Unfortunately, Shikhar Dhawan, who was looking good, got out attempting a pull shot. Kohli, too, was setting himself for a scrap but got a good one, and then only the skipper Dhoni looked as if he was capable of taking the bowling on.
The picture at the Wanderers in Johannesburg was not the most pleasing and encouraging one, and unless the pitches for the Durban games are a lot less bouncy, this could well turn out to be an embarrassing tour. I hope I am proved wrong, for as it is hearing the way the common South African fan wants India to be not just beaten but thrashed is not good for the ears, and if India do lose badly, it will be rubbing salt into their wounds.
India do have the ability to bounce back, but they will need loads of determination and disciplined batting to be able to do so.
They will also need a bit of luck earlier on when the ball is harder and bouncing a lot more than they are used to. Dale Steyn did not get plenty of wickets in the first game, but he set it up for his team with that initial spell.
Now Rohit Sharma is a terrific batsman with shots all round the ground, and it is this trip that will test his temperament and tell how badly he wants to succeed at this level.
The biggest test of any team is how it performs in foreign conditions, and this tour of South Africa is going to be the first of the many tests that the new-look Indian team has ahead of it over the next couple of years.
Reproduced from Mail Today. Copyright 2013. MTNPL. All rights reserved.