Faf du Plessis has admitted that South Africa were surprised when Team India picked Rohit Sharma before Ajinkya Rahane and gave a chance to Jasprit Bumrah in the playing XI. The South African skipper has, however, praised the Indian bowlers stating that their pace attack is similar to theirs.
Rahane, India’s middle-order batsman, has scored runs at an average of 69.66 in South Africa, but his experience in the recently concluded Test series against Sri Lanka was not very impressive as he managed to score only 17 runs in three games. Rohit, on the other hand, took the opportunity brilliantly to cement his place in India's Test squad, by hitting a century in the Nagpur Test and registering two half-centuries in both the innings of Delhi Test.
His brilliant innings must have worked as he was surprisingly selected over Rahane for the Cape Town Test. The Indian cricket team also handed a Test debut cap to Bumrah, who claimed four wickets in his first game in whites. South Africa skipper, du Plessis, has however revealed that his team was left surprised by the inclusion of both the players.
"We were surprised yes. We didn't think that Jasprit Bumrah and Rohit Sharma would have played. They have been in a bit of form one-day cricket wise so they're probably just running with that," du Plessis said as quoted by Cricketnext.
The hosts also faced difficulty while finalizing the playing XI against India as they dropped Temba Bavuma and Chriss Morris from the squad and picked Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada for their pace attack, which eventually proved to be a wise step.
"The decision of picking a team was definitely the hardest I have been involved in. There is so much value in both scenarios. Playing seven batsmen that offer a bit more seam is a very good call.," said du Plessis.
"But I just thought, if you have Steyn, Morkel, Philander, Rabada, that's four bowlers you cannot look past. It's a positive move. Yes, Dale hasn't played a lot of cricket but the way he was bowling in the nets, and the way he bowled in the first innings, I think he was one of our best bowlers."
The Indian bowling attack wrapped up the hosts for 130 runs in the second innings after they could manage to post a meagre target of 208 runs. Du Plessis has admitted that South Africa were nervous after their second innings batting as they thought that India’s deep batting line-up could have easily achieved the target.
"I was nervous. I knew that the new ball was going to be key for us and that if we could get wickets with the new ball we feel like we can get through their batting line-up," said du Plessis.
"Obviously they've got a few quality players in there but once you can put a bit of pressure on them I thought we can get through them. But definitely, I was very nervous. I came here this morning hoping to get a 350 lead and bowl to them tonight, so obviously, that didn't go to plan."
The first match of the series will be remembered for the terrific performance of the bowlers from both the teams. But South African players used their experience and home advantage to take a 1-0 lead in the three-Test match series. Du Plessis was all praise for his bowlers after the win.
"We've got fantastic seam bowlers and if there's anything in the wicket, Vernon Philander and the other two guys are amazing. And if we had Dale Steyn there today, I reckon we would have rolled them out cheaper," he said.
"If there's something in the wicket, Vernon is as good as you get around the world. What impressed me most today was he wanted to bowl overs. He didn't say after three or four overs. That's enough. He wanted the ball and he wanted to make a plan, that's all you ask for from a senior player’s point of view."
The Rainbow nation has, however, faced a huge setback after the management confirmed that fast bowler Dale Steyn was unable to continue for the remainder of the series due to a left heel injury. Steyn, who had been struggling with injury for a major part of two years, had finally made a comeback to the Test side but could only manage 17.3 overs and two wickets, before a new injury forced him to leave the field.
"It was great to see Dale like he didn't go anywhere. He was back to his best. I was standing at slip and we felt like he could nick guys off at any time. You were just happy to see Dale Steyn back on the park, so this is a huge step back for him. Luckily it's not his shoulder again. The foot, or injury that he has, is something you probably can get over a lot quicker and we are looking forward to bringing him back in the fold when he's fit again."
Despite losing the game, India must be delighted with the way their pacers have performed on the fast and bouncy tracks. In the first innings of South Africa, Bhuvneshwar Kumar was a nightmare for South African batsmen as he grabbed four wickets. In the second innings, however, it was Bumrah and Mohammed Shami who took three wickets each, conceding only 39 and 28 runs respectively.
Du Plessis also praised the Indian fast bowling battery and claimed they have weapons dangerous for South African conditions.
"They've got guys that can swing the ball, guys that can seam the ball around and they've also got a bit of pace. It's similar to our attack. So I'm not surprised. We wanted the wicket to be a little bit like that, so we expected the wicket to be a bit more bowler friendly. You just needed one or two guys to step up and score some runs. So we did that fortunately in that first innings. I felt that one of me, AB and Quinton could have pushed through to get an 80-odd and put an even bigger total," said de Plessis.