Former Pakistan pace spearhead Shoaib Akhtar said on Friday (January 19) that the Test series defeat in South Africa is a blessing in disguise for the Indian team, who are set for sterner tests in England and Australia later this year.
Akhtar added that Virat Kohli's Team India "did not play well" in the ongoing three-Test series in South Africa.
Notably, Team India's nine-series unbeaten run was brought to a halt by Faf du Plessis-led South Africa, who took an unassailable 2-0 lead after their 135-run win over the visitors in Centurion on Wednesday, January 17. Kohli's men had lost the first match in Cape Town by 72 runs.
All hopes of revival of overseas fortunes under the combination of Ravi Shastri and Kohli were dashed after the visitors' underwhelming performances with the bat.
Despite the bowlers taking 20 South African wickets in both the Tests, India finished second best. Even a valiant 153 from captain Kohli in Centurion did not save India from a crushing defeat.
"Yes, they [India] did not play well. The batsmen should have applied themselves better. It is, may be, a result of a bad combination. Not taking wickets at the right time, not scoring enough runs," Akhtar told Press Trust of India news agency.
He added: "They have a chance to turn it all around (in England and Australia later this year). I would look at it like that. To lose a series like that could be the best thing that could happen to them.
"Before England, they have to utilise the time in the right manner, get the practice right. Lot of improvement is required in batting. England is a good team at home but you cannot write off India."
Sterner tests await Team India
India will try to avoid an unprecedented series whitewash in South Africa when they play the third and final Test in Johannesburg from January 24. Kohli's team will also play six ODIs and three T20Is in the "Rainbow Nation".
The number one-ranked Test side will have another chance to shed their tag of "poor travellers" when they head to England for a five-Test series, starting August 1.
As Akhtar says, India will be benefited if they have enough time to prepare for the English Test. Lack of preparation time has been seen as one of the primary reasons for India's defeat in South Africa.
It emerged earlier today that the team management and the players were not keen on playing a long series against Sri Lanka last year, ahead of the much-anticipated tour to South Africa.
The three Tests, three ODIs and three T20Is played at home against the islanders in November-December last year left India without any time to get used to South African conditions.