Watching the dismal show by India batsmen in South Africa that resulted in a Test series defeat, former all-rounder Manoj Prabhakar said most of the batsmen are influenced by IPL-style big-hitting and have forgotten the art of leaving the ball.
"The main thing is you should know when to leave the ball. They don't know how to apply themselves. If you're a compulsive hooker, you should know how to avoid an incoming delivery," Prabhakar told reporters at the Eden Gardens.
"Defence is the best offence. I was also an opener. When I could survive why can't they survive. You should know how to leave," Prabhakar, who had scored a dogged 252-ball 62 in a drawn Cape Town Test in January 1993, said.
"This is not lack of practice, this is the cricket nowadays. With a lot of IPL, our trend is to hit the short ball. Trend is not how to leave."
Prabhakar slammed India's team selection in the ongoing Test series, saying it is a shame to pick players for a Test match based on their form in limited over cricket.
India excluded Ajinkya Rahane in the first two Tests, while dropped Bhuvneshwar Kumar in favour of Ishant Sharma in the second Test, despite his three-wicket burst on the opening day at Cape Town.
Bhuvneshwar had ripped apart the South African top-order to reduce the home side to 12/3 after they opted to bat in the
opening Test in Cape Town but Indian batting meekly surrendered chasing 208.
But a bold Virat Kohli picked Ishant in place of Bhuvneshwar, while ignoring Rahane in both the Tests in favour of Rohit Sharma, who had been in rampaging form in limited over cricket in the run-up to the Test series.
"This is a shame. If you start picking Test side on T20I or ODIs form, then you're gone. It's a specialist job to play new ball in Test matches," Prabhakar said.
"We have Rishabh Pant here, will you play him for a Test? -- He can score a century in 25-30 balls," Prabhakar quipped.
"There you need different technique. But here one batsman scores double century in ODIs and his position is fixed. Rahane should have (played)... That's our problem."
The Delhi bowling coach, who is here for their side's Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy T20 competition, said Bhuvneshwar should be back in the side for the third Test.
"Bhuvi should be back, he swings a lot with lateral movements. When the ball swings, South Africans struggle, they are good at negotiating seam but not very good against swing," opined the former pacer, who was known to swing the ball prodigiously.
"He has proven in two IPLs that he's the best choice bowler before anybody. I will drop anyone for Bhuvi. Such a bowler will do his job in the first 20 overs."
"Bhuvi swings in the air, a very rare type of bowler as most swing off the wicket. He swings late in the air. Why not use him with new ball? He will fetch you three wickets with new ball," explained the 54-year-old.
A gutsy batsman who could bat anywhere in the order, Prabhakar said the key to win in South Africa is to bat or bowl well in the first 20 overs.
"We cannot win in South Africa till we know why to bowl and bat in first 20 overs there," he said.
Prabhakar said even in domestic circuit Indian batsmen struggle against the short ball.
"You look at Ranji Trophy. I have seen the whole season. Apart from Jaffer, nobody knew how to play short balls."
"If Virat Kohli is exposed and got out in first three- four overs then the struggle starts. If the pressure comes on middle order, you are gone."
Terming India's batting order as the best in the world, Prabhakar said if the openers can survive first 20 overs, they can put pressure on the South Africans.
"Basic thing for openers is to play through 20 overs. We have the world's best batting line-up. They will change the story completely (once your openers see through the 20 overs). Kohli then is a terror," he said.
"Captain can take the challenge. He proved it, he stood in there and made 153 with his determined knock," he hailed Kohli's Centurion innings.
"Bowling has done a fare job. I can't say South Africa are comfortable against our bowling, they are also struggling. But you have to give them at least 300-350 to defend."
Prabhakar said India must buck up ahead of the series in England where there would be more swing on offer.
"There will be more problems in England. Here there was one Vernon Philander, England will have three there," he said, referring to James Anderson as the biggest threat.
Ishant Sharma took five wickets in the second Test against South Africa and Prabhakar said the lanky pacer improved a lot.
"I just corrected his balance. He's now swinging, now making late swing. He has improved a lot.
(With PTI inputs)