India captain Rohit Sharma agreed that the batters did not perform up to the mark in the first Test against South Africa but he was not ready to concieve that they have trouble coping with the moving ball overseas. India were bowled out for 245 and 131 in Centurion to lose the match by an innings and 32 runs. This was only the second time in five years that succumbed to an innings defeat overseas. India lasted only 101.5 overs – 67.4 in the first innings and 34.1 in the second – in the match while South Africa batted 108 overs in their first innings alone.
Apart from KL Rahul’s brilliant century in the first innings and Virat Kohli’s fluent 76 in the second innings, there really wasn’t much resistance from the Indian batters. Youngsters – Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shubman Gill, and Shreyas Iyer – in their first Test tour to South Africa, failed to leave an impression.
Rohit, however, said there was no need to worry and criticise the batters too much as it is the same set of players who performed well in England and Australia in the last few years.
“There’s no need to motivate them. They are all international cricketers. This performance is just one. Don’t forget what we did in Australia and England. We won in Australia with our batting. We drew in England with batting and bowling. It’s not like we don’t know how to bat outside India. Sometimes opposition plays better than you. It’s not like they batted 110 overs and we couldn’t even do that. You go and check the scorecards of the last four or five away tours we have done,” Rohit said.
Every batter has a unique technique and it is imperative when they come for challenging assignments like South Africa, they have a customised game plan, Rohit said, citing KL Rahul’s example.
“Look at what KL Rahul did in the first innings. It is a perfect example of showing intent as well as respecting the conditions. At the end of the day, he scored at a strike-rate of 70 and he put the bad balls away. That is what we talk about intent.”
While he didn’t take names but he certainly wasn’t amused in the manner Shreyas Iyer and Shubman Gill tackled conditions.
“We can’t just go and swing our bats. That’s not the conditions to do that. You got to understand that there is a thin line between showing that intent and discipline as well,” Rohit said.
“Every individual is different and we try talking to every individual in the way they want to play and keeping conditions in mind, what they can do. It’s a mixture of everything, intent, little bit of discipline and you can’t just go with one mindset in these conditions.”
More than the batting, it’s the bowling that would disappoint India more. Save Bumrah, who took four wickets and to an extent Mohammed Siraj, Shardul Thakur and Prasidh Krishna got pasting of their lives.
“This was not a 400-run wicket and we gave too many runs. We sprayed the ball all around, but it happens. One can’t depend on one particular bowler (Bumrah), the other three pacers also needed to perform their roles, we could learn from how South Africa bowled,” Rohit said after the match.
He admitted that although there wasn’t a lack of effort, Bumrah couldn’t alone keep the pressure on Proteas batters.
“Bumrah bowled well and we all know his quality. All he wanted was a bit of support which he didn’t get. That happens. All three tried hard, bending their backs but didn’t happen the way we wanted it to. But games like these teach you a lot as to what you want to do as a bowling unit,” the skipper observed.