If only India had more practice days
No excuses, says Shastri, but a bit more training may have helped us
India cricket coach Ravi Shastri gave new meaning to the idea of hindsight being an exact science when he admitted they needed more time to acclimatise to South African conditions. India only have pride to play for in the third Test, which starts on Wednesday at the Wanderers.
India arrived in SA towards the end of 2017 and opted not to have a practice match ahead of the first Test in Cape Town.
It was a Test India lost by 72 runs as they failed to cope with the unusually trampoline bounce and exaggerated movement offered by the normally placid Newlands surface.
The 135-run defeat in the second Test at SuperSport Park seemed to hit the visitors more emotionally than the first as SA adapted to conditions more suited to India.
SuperSport Park did not provide too much in terms of pace, bounce and movement, but SA’s pacemen, led by Lungi Ngidi, proved to be the difference.
Shastri said they had been more competitive in SA than the Proteas were when they lost three of four Tests on their 2015-16 India tour.
"In hindsight, I would say another 10 days of practice would have made the difference, but that’s no excuse. It’s the pitch we play on and it’s the same pitch for both teams and I would rather focus on the 20 wickets we’ve taken because they’ve given us a chance to win both Test matches," Shastri said.
"We are familiar with conditions back home and we shouldn’t be fighting back in our own conditions. Here conditions are different.
"We’re not here to moan about the tracks because there is grass on the track and you expect that when you’re overseas. At the start of the game, both teams play on the same surface. The good thing though is that people won’t crib and moan when matches in India are won in two-and-a-half days," Shastri said.
"They will ask me what kind of tracks are we playing on. We’ve taken 20 wickets and when you do so, you have a chance to win. If we batted better, that would have made more difference."
While India did bowl well, they were outbowled by their hosts, who seemed to find an extra gear once India wanted
Vernon Philander had a quiet outing by his high standards but played a crucial role in drying up the runs.
Having been the go-to bowler at Newlands, Philander went at 2.87 and 2.50 in the first and second innings of the second Test, while Ngidi, Kagiso Rabada and Morné Morkel reaped the rewards.
Philander will be expected to resume his strike bowling role in better bowling conditions as the Wanderers surface still sported a decent shade of green. It was not as verdant as last week, when head groundsman Bethuel Buthelezi started preparing the pitch, but the track is expected to be hard and true.
Philander did not worry himself about Shastri’s comments about the lack of preparation time in the lead-up to the series. "Their management team had to sit down with their players and ask them what was going to suit them best. I’m sure they would have had a discussion in their side," he said.
"We just prepare as best we can and as far as our results are concerned, we’ve played the better cricket and we deserve the results at the end of the day.
"Whether they came here earlier, it might have helped them a little bit, but it’s for them to answer," Philander said.