Cape Town – A funny old thing happened to India during the month of April 2005 ... they somehow contrived to lose a home one-day international series against arch-rivals Pakistan from a 2-0 platform in their favour.
Filled with batting icons of the time like Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly (the captain) and Rahul Dravid, the hosts earned thumping start-out wins in both Kochi and Visakhapatnam to seemingly signal their merciless intentions for the six-match series.
But what happened thereafter could only be described as the stuff of horror to India’s mega-millions of doting fans: not only did Pakistan claw their way back into the series, they ended up rather goring their neighbours as the next four contests all went the visiting way for a remarkable 4-2 outcome.
Impromptu research by Sport24 suggests it was the last time India have suffered the indignity of four bilateral limited-overs international losses on the trot in their own lair.
But that is what faces them once again, a bit over a decade later, if they come a cropper to the currently pumped-up Proteas in Wednesday’s second ODI at Indore.
It would be slightly different, given that the run of defeats would straddle two different formats (the first two games in the swelling sequence were Twenty20 internationals) but nevertheless represent an irksome state of affairs for India, seldom subjected to such consistent discomfort in the compressed versions of cricket at home.
If AB de Villiers’s side do prevail in the day-nighter at Holkar Stadium (10:00 start, SA time) it would not only greatly enhance their quest to win a 50-overs series in India for the first time – they shared one 2-2 in 2005/06 – but also represent the host nation’s maiden reverse at the venue.
Should India instead pull one back in conditions expected to be almost as hot and energy-sapping as witnessed in the Kanpur thriller at the weekend, they will feel they are right back on an even keel, knowing deep down that they were largely their own worst enemies during the key closing stages on Sunday when they looked like turning screws, only to blow a gasket instead.
That said, the Proteas will be extremely happy with the gutsy way this marathon tour has begun for them, and probably be revelling in the fact that if any “choker” tags were going to thrown around in the aftermath of Kanpur, they’ll be directed in the opposite corner to theirs for a change.
India have won 12 of their last 14 bilateral ODI series at home, and the last five in a row, only further serving as an indicator of how hard is to topple them in their uniquely challenging environment.
The Proteas surging to a 2-0 lead, and thus leaving India with that unpalatable “nought from four” record in one-day games of late, may well have the effect of seeing the home side’s fans begin to turn agitatedly against their own troops.
And if that were to occur, you wouldn’t hear too much grumbling from the South African camp ...
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