CAPE TOWN, Oct 13 (Reuters) - Replacing a host of test-winning performers is proving a hard ask for South Africa who suffered a fourth successive defeat, roundly thumped as India won by an innings and 137 runs on the fourth day in Pune on Sunday to go 2-0 down in the three-test series.
The defeat was the heaviest suffered by a South African team at the hands of India and followed quickly on a comprehensive 203-run victory for the hosts in the opening test at Visakhapatnam last week.
The retirement from the test arena over the last 18 months of Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn was always going to leave South Africa stretched in their efforts to build a new team at a most inconvenient time, as the new-look ICC World Test Championship kicked off.
There was already much concern after Sri Lanka won both tests in South Africa in a quick-fire series in February and then Cricket South Africa terminated Ottis Gibson’s tenure as coach after a disappointing World Cup in England and Wales in mid-year.
Any hopes that South Africa might be able to quickly bridge the gap have been blown away in India, where the team have looked largely overawed and outgunned and without much of the tenacity of the past.
“We’ve lost most of our experience. You don’t replace those guys overnight,” captain Faf du Plessis told reporters after Sunday’s defeat.
“Your best test teams are those with the most experience and guys that have been through it.”
He felt, though, that even with fewer than 60 caps between them, the South Africans could have put up a better fight.
“We let ourselves down. There are a lot of questions that need answers and players that need to put their hands up.
“We are a very proud cricketing nation and our performance in this test doesn’t do that justice. I’m hurting and I am sure the guys are too.”
There is no immediate solution as South Africa go into the final test at Ranchi, which starts on Saturday, looking to avoid a series whitewash and then have to turn their focus to the tour by England in December and January.
“It’s now about trying to make sure this team can get better, even if you do a few things wrong,” added the skipper.
“Even in real tough times, make sure you try and find learning where the player can get better, otherwise we are not moving forward as a group.” (Editing by Clare Fallon)