South Africa's 72-day tour of India got off to a perfect start after the visitors wreaked havoc on the hosts to clinch T20 and ODI series. India's loss on home soil raised a lot of questions on the team's performance and the long-trusted leadership of MS Dhoni also came under scrutiny.
The home team desperately needed to bounce back in the Test series to answer the critics with their performance and intent to upset a rampaging South African brigade who were looking to improve their nine-year-old away series record.
Virat Kohli-led India did turn the tables on the visitors with a 2-0 series win with one game yet to be played in New Delhi. But, as much as the team and their fans would have liked, India's triumph wouldn't have been possible without rank turners which was customised by the pitch curators to support the Indian spinners.
The fact that the Indian spin trio of Ravichandran Ashwin (24), Ravindra Jadeja (16) and Amit Mishra (7) bagged 47 wickets in the three matches played so far makes the case stronger. While these stats are surely thrilling for the home fans and the fact that the visitors were completely bamboozled by spin would only add to India's glory, it also raises questions on India's desperation to win the series.
The series that's been completely dominated by spinners, saw the batting line-ups of both the teams fall like a pack of cards. The much-talked about contest between bat and ball in cricket was nowhere to be seen and only the tailor-made pitches are to blame.
For a series that was promoted heavily with a punchline 'Mushkil hai, par maza aayega' (tough, but its going to be exciting), it has only been mushkil for the Proteas and far too predictable, taking away the excitement.
Going into the first Test, Faf du Plessis had revealed that the Proteas were not expecting anything but "worse" from the Mohali surface. A raging turner, dry, spider-webbed with cracks and practically unplayable. Du Plessis' comments only highlighted South Africa's state of mind which saw them lose the first game by 108 runs.
Part-timer Dean Elgar made the first impression after bagging four wickets as India were bundled out for 201 runs in the first innings. In reply, the Proteas were bowled out for 184 with Ashwin (5), Jadeja (3) and Mishra (2) doing the damage.
In the second innings, spinners Simon Harmer (4) and Imran Tahir (4) restricted India to 200 runs. The Proteas needed 218 runs with two days still left in the Test. However, the visitors were bowled out for a mere 109 runs in just 40 overs on Day 3. And, Ashwin (3), Jadeja (5) and Mishra (1) were the usual suspects for India.
Out of the 40 wickets in two innings, the Test match saw a whopping 34 wickets falling to the spinners from both the sides. While spinners made merry, the batsmen were all at sea. There were only three half-centuries scored in the entire match wherein two came from Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara for India while one was slammed by AB de Villiers for South Africa.
Leading 1-0 in the four-match series, Virat Kohli took a brave decision after deciding to field against South Africa on a track that was touted to offer a better contest than the Mohali wicket. It was also the 100th Test for AB de Villiers who rose to the occasion and slammed 85 runs to guide South Africa to 214 runs in the first innings.
Ashwin (4) and Jadeja (4) were at their prolific best for India. In reply, the hosts were given a solid start by Murali Vijay (28*) and Shikhar Dhawan (45*) to end Day 1 at 80/1. However, the heavens opened up to deny play on the second, third, fourth and final day of the match.
It was the ninth-shortest, non-abandoned Test that ended in a draw just before noon on the fifth day, with wet conditions and intermittent drizzle washing out a fourth day in a row. Only one Test in India has had fewer overs bowled than the 81 in the second match of the series.
If the Mohali pitch troubled the South Africans, the Nagpur wicket proved to be a landmine with the unassuming ball becoming a weapon of mass destruction after landing on the pitch, making it hard for the visitors to anticipate the turn.
On a pitch that turned batting into a lottery, South Africa failed to buy their ticket. After bowling India out for 215 runs in the first innings, the Proteas were bullied by Ashwin (5), Jadeja (4) and Mishra (1) before being bundled out for 79 runs - the lowest Test score by a team against India.
If the Proteas struggled at the Nagpur wicket, the Indians themselves were brought face-to-face with the horror of batting on this pitch. Imran Tahir's five-for ensured that India were bowled out for 173 runs in the second innings. In the end, Proteas fell short by 124 runs as India clinched the series 2-0.
As expected, the spinners were accounted for 33 out of the 40 wickets in the match. Ashwin bagged a whopping 12 wickets while Jadeja and Mishra picked four wickets apiece at Nagpur. On the other hand, there wasn't even a single half-century scored in the entire match. The match ended in just three days and a whopping 20 wickets fell on the first day of play.
"It is not a policy (to play on such pitches), it is the conditions that you get in India. Otherwise you will just play Test matches which will get you 500 runs in an innings. You don't create bowlers like that, you don't win Test matches like that. The key is to win Test matches," Indian captain Virat Kohli said after his side won the 3rd Test.
"Take off your whites and play with your suspenders on this wrestling pit. You want me to believe this is home advantage? Pitches are not meant to turn on Day One itself. Ashwin is an intelligent bowler and he does not need such kind of surfaces to be successful - Ravindra Jadeja probably needs such wickets, but not Ashwin. You are pulling Ashwin down with such wickets," former Indian cricketer Bishan Singh Bedi said after the 3rd Test.
"The surface was probably the toughest that I have had and the cricket itself was really difficult. Credit to India, they kind of bowled well. Unfortunately, we ended up on the wrong side of this game," South Africa's Test captain Hashim Amla said after the 3rd Test.
"Which rule tells me that a ball can't turn on day one? Where does it tell me in the rule book it can only swing and seam? Here, at times, I think unless you play on these tracks you won't know how to play on these tracks. I would hope the one in Delhi is absolutely the same. I have no qualms about it," Team India director Ravi Shastri defended the spin-friendly pitches.