India did not go into the T20 series against South Africa as favourites though they were playing at home. But, going by records, they had a slight advantage, having beaten South Africa in six of the eight encounters between the teams prior to the latest series. However, India only looked a shadow of the team that had dominated the Proteas in the the past. If India were told at the start of the series that they were going to lose the same 2-0, they would have been very disappointed. Building towards the World T20, what should worry India the most is that they have been losing T20 games consistently, one of the defeats coming against Zimbabwe.
If one were to look back at the just-concluded T20 games against South Africa, both their batsmen and bowlers need to pull their socks up. Of course, two matches is too small a sample size, but as mentioned earlier, India have been struggling before that as well. Shikhar Dhawan's failures against South Africa hurt India in a big way. He has been the most dangerous batsman for opponents in recent times with his attacking instincts. And, when he has done well, India have also dazzled. But, poor running cost India his wicket in the opening game, and he played a bad slog in the second.
A closer look tells us that India's running between the wickets has severely handicapped them in T20s of late. In Zimbabwe, Ajinkya Rahane and Murali Vijay fell to that mode of dismissal, and in the South African matches, Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Ambati Rayudu have fallen in that unnecessary manner. In T20 games, it is important to be street smart, and losing wickets to silly run-outs definitely does not sync with the idea of intelligent play. India need to work of this weakness of theirs. They cannot afford to keep losing key wickets to runs outs in ungainly fashion as it would hurt them even more in the big games.
Another aspect India need to be wary of is to not over-experiment, which they certainly did in the South Africa series, and it proved costly for them. The tactics were rather surprising for this was not a practice series, but a big one against one of the top sides in the world. As such, they were expected to play their best side, which they did not. Certainly, Ajinkya Rahane and Amit Mishra deserved their places in the starting eleven ahead of Rayudu and Axar Patel. India had visited Zimbabwe sometime back when they rested key players. There was no reason to do the same against the Proteas. They needed to play to win not experiment.
Team India need their top batsmen in form if they want to succeed in the World T20. Apart from Dhawan, this includes Rohit, Suresh Raina and Rahane. All of them have done well for the team in recent times, but need to combine well as a unit. Skipper MS Dhoni himself needs to raise his game with the bat. India's bowling against South Africa lacked teeth because they did not have the pace to trouble the Proteas. India need to try out Mohammed Shami and, if he is not fit, at least Umesh Yadav before the World T20. The slowness of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohit Sharma has made things easier for the opponents. The South Africa loss has left India with plenty to ponder upon.
-- By A Cricket Analyst