While stating that his team would not complain about the kind of wickets that his team have been offered in South Africa, Ravi Shastri acknowledged the lack of practice in SA conditions cost his team. Shastri, however, credited his bowlers for their performance in three-match Test series.
In 2017, India played an incredible 11 Tests apart from the limited-overs games, the IPL, and the Champions Trophy. They ended the year with a home series - 3 Tests, 3 ODIs and 3 T20Is - against Sri Lanka despite having played them in a full-fledged series a few months before that. Even Virat Kohli came out and criticized the move to schedule another series at home at the end of a tiring home season. While India went on to win the series quite comfortably at the end, it meant that they didn’t have too much time to prepare for the more important South Africa tour.
After many ex-players, including Sunil Gavaskar, blasted India’s preparation for the series, Shastri has finally admitted that 10 extra days in South Africa would have helped the team perform better.
"We are not here to moan about the tracks because like I said at the start of the game both teams play on the same surface. The good thing though is people won't crib and moan when matches in India get over in two and a half days. Neither will they ask me what kind of track are you playing on. In hindsight, I would say another ten days of practice here would have made a difference. But that’s no excuse. The pitch we play on, it’s the same for both sides and I would rather focus on the 20 wickets we have taken. That has given us a chance in both Test matches to win games. Yes our top order, if we can fire, it will be a good Test match," said Shastri, reported Cricketnext.
If Ajinkya had played first, and not done well, you would have asked me the same question, why Rohit hasn’t played.
"Unfortunately, the schedule was such that you had matches. But am sure henceforth in the future when itineraries are made that will be taken into account, there is absolutely no doubt about that. You get there a couple of weeks earlier and prepare."
After succumbing to a 72-run defeat in the opening Test in Cape Town in just three days, four if one includes the washed out day, India conceded the series in Centurian with a 125-run loss. However, as the results imply the matches were too close to call for most periods and had one more session gone India’s way, the result could have been a different one. The Indian head coach made the same argument ahead of the final Test at the Wanderers.
"They have had chances in both Test matches but they didn’t make the most of it, so when you believe you have a chance to win then you look forward to a Test match. When you don’t believe you can win you don’t look forward to a Test match, as simple as that," Shastri added.
Since the Indian team started its tour of South Africa, a lot has been made about the team’s selection policy. After Rohit Sharma was included in the team for the first Test ahead of the more experienced Ajinkya Rahane, many pundits questioned the decision. However, there was even more furore when Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who was India’s best bowler in the first Test, was dropped for the second for no apparent reason.
"Chopping and changing overseas is easier. In India, you don’t need to chop and change because you know what the conditions are. Overseas, you go on current form and you go on conditions and you see which player can adapt to certain conditions quicker than the other. What are the overhead conditions for which bowler to play as opposed to what kind of track you will get, where you need a bowler with
"That will always be the case. If Ajinkya had played first, and not done well, you would have asked me the same question, why Rohit hasn’t played. Rohit played, he didn’t do well, you are asking me Ajinkya didn’t play. the same would have happened with the fast bowlers. So when you have choices, the team management has discussed what is the best option and they stick by it they go by it."
"Our bowlers did a great job. I mean no one expected our bowlers to fire the way they did and take 20 wickets so I rather harp on that because for me that’s the biggest positive that has come out of this tour. We are here to live and learn from our mistakes and like I said that is the most positive. Even our top order, we go in with six batsmen, five batsmen and an all-rounder, so it means that responsibility on both sides on the top order is that much more. so you have to gust it out, it won't be easy," Shastri said.
The final Test of the series will begin on January 24 at the Wanderers, a venue where India are yet to lose a single Test since their first Test in 1992.