Last couple of weeks have been very interesting in Indian cricket. Senior side lost test series 2 – 1 to South Africa, U19 side played some quality cricket to reach final of ICC U19 world cup (final would be played on Feb 3, hopefully this piece would be published before that). The approach and preparation for both these events was really contradictory.
Senior side on tour of South Africa didn’t play any practice games and went in 1st test without any match practice. “Practice makes one perfect. But nobody is perfect, so why practice” applies here perfectly. Weather, pitch condition and bounce are some of the things that are very different in South Africa compared to India. Due to this fact, decision of not playing practice games is even more baffling. On the contrary, U19 team which has done so well in World Cup had scheduled 2 practice games. One of those games was washed out due to rain, but the intent to be prepared was correct.
in South Africa Test series, Indian bowlers did an outstanding job throughout the series. In all 3 test matches, they bowled out opposition. That’s an outstanding achievement for a pace attack that had a test debutant. Had they got bit more cooperation from fielders with respect to catching, 2nd test match would have been an interesting one.
Indian batsman struggled. This struggle was not at all a surprise due to lack of practice games. Due to emergence of T20 cricket, batting in Test matches has changed drastically. 10 years ago, run rate of 2.5 during tests was considered “aggressive”. But in today’s era, team’s have scored at run rate of 5. Attacking and scoring runs as quickly as possible seems to be new trend. To score runs by playing aggressive shots, one needs to have good judgement of bounce and pace of the wicket. Indian batsman tried playing aggressively in all 3 test matches. Due to lack of familiarity with environment meant they lost wickets at periodic interval. In 1st innings of 1st test match against South Africa, Bhuvneswar Kumar faced 86 balls to score 25 runs. 86 balls he faced was only bettered by Pujara and Pandya (India’s battling line up had Vijay, Dhawan, Pujara, Kohli and Rohit Sharma).
Apart from no practice games, other thing that made very little sense during test series was team selection. Rahane should have played all 3 games. He showed his quality and class in 3rd test match. His innings held Indian batting together. He ensured the scoreboard had respectable and defendable total. Bhuvneswar Kumar was dropped for 2nd test. That was another baffling decision. He was standpoint player with both ball and bat in 1st test match.
This is not the first time Indian team management has behaved in this way with regards to practice games. And I fear, this won’t be the last time. But still, I hope Indian Team management learns from these mistakes and prepares for upcoming overseas tours in better fashion…