With their backs being pushed to the wall after losing the first two Tests, Team India are hopeful to change the tide in the third and final Test at Wanderers in Johannesburg, starting on Wednesday. Talking about the two losses in Cape Town and Centurion, the Indian coach Ravi Shastri on Monday highlighted the positives from the series and believes the bowlers had done a splendid job in both the matches. He also feels the performances by the bowlers have allowed the visitors to express themselves as the world's no.1 side.
"No one expected our bowlers to fire the way they did and take 20 wickets so I would 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," Shastri said after a practice session.
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"We did (play like the no.1 team). We had our moments in both Tests and we looked like the no.1 team when we bowled out South Africa for 130-odd. Or, when we closed the gap thanks to Virat's brilliant innings (at Centurion)...we looked like the no.1 team in overseas conditions. Not many teams look half that when they come to India," he added.
Lack of 'Match Practice'
Speaking about the unfamiliar conditions in the Rainbow nation, Shastri believes Virat Kohli and Co. should have landed in South Africa little earlier to acclimatise and called for more preparatory time ahead of future overseas tours. India had landed in South Africa on December 28, while the Test series got underway on January 5.
"Back home, we are familiar with conditions. Ideally, we shouldn't have to fight back (at home), but we fought back and we did well. Here, conditions are different. In hindsight I would say another ten days of practice here would have made a difference," Shastri added.
"But that's no excuse. The pitch we play on is the same for both sides and I would rather focus on the 20 wickets we have taken (in both Tests). That has given us a chance in both Tests to win games. If our top order can fire, this (third Test) will also be a good match," he added.
The coach was further questioned why Test specialists weren't sent in advance. He was also asked if an early departure to acclimatise for the tours of England and Australia later in the year would be taken into consideration.
"There was a thought (to send Test specialists) early, but then you are disjointed. Those thoughts can be put in hindsight. But I would say the best thing would be reaching there (for future tours) two weeks earlier," replied Shastri.
"Unfortunately the schedule (this time) was such that you had matches (against Sri Lanka). But I 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," he added.
India have never lost a Test series 3-0 in South Africa. Shastri highlighted that the morale in the dressing room is high because the team is creating chances to win Tests in overseas conditions.
He said they are looking forward to the third Test in Johannesburg and pulling one back in the series.
"Like South Africa, even we played with six batsmen, five plus one all-rounder. It means that responsibility on both sides on the top order is that much more...it won't be easy because South Africa have a very good attack as well. You have to have guts out there. There are no shortcuts or half measures.
You have to grind it out there," he said.
"They have had chances in both Tests 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," he added.
The Indian team held a full practice session this morning. The management was a bit circumspect about the practice pitches and Shastri even called up the Wanderers' head curator. The groundsmen then rolled the practice pitches before the batsmen took strike.
"The practice pitches were damp. I think they were watered last night, so the bounce was a little spongy and two-paced. So by rolling, we wanted the practice wickets to be a little harder," explained Shastri.
"Well there is grass on the track and you expect that overseas," he added, talking about the green-top expected for this third Test at Wanderers.
Shastri, however, refused to complain about the conditions, reiterating that the track is the same for both the teams.
"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 also get over in two-and-a-half days.
"Neither will they ask me what kind of track are you playing on. We are not here to complain, we have taken 20 wickets. When you take 20 wickets you have a chance to win. If we had batted better we might have well done that," he added.
(With PTI Inputs)