JOHANNESBURG: Staying within their hotel premises a day after the conclusion of the second Test in Centurion, the Indian cricket team – shattered by the series defeat here in South Africa – spent time either locked in intense team meetings or one-on-ones with skipper Virat Kohli for the better part of Thursday.
‘Intent’ – a term Kohli had used in his presser post the first Test defeat at the Newlands, remained the buzzword.
The after-effect of this series loss is going to be a harsh one, and the actuals will only begin to urge once the team comes out of its self-inflicted confinement. For one, Ajinkya Rahane, one of India’s most successful overseas batsmen in the current ranks, may need to make a comeback. Thanks to the advent of Twenty20, ‘percentage cricket’ too is a term that’s lost on most of these young men. The term that best describes the art of playing effective strokes but in turn minimising risks and maximising the time spent at the crease.
Simply put, every ball is not meant to be played. Every shot is not meant to be scored off. Every score needn’t be converted from a single to double. The art of leaving is as sanctimonious in Test match cricket as the Test match itself. Thursday was a day spent making a Twenty20 generation understand this better.
Four batsmen, in particular, clearly committed more blunders than most in a game that India conceded meekly. These four invite themselves for serious questioning…
VIJAY: ‘CONCERTED’ EFFORT?
Murali Vijay edging Keshav Maharaj to the Quinton de Kock is a case in point. Vijay clearly looked like he had a train to catch that afternoon in the first innings, when for close to three overs, he kept needling Maharaj’s deliveries outside the offstump. The Chennai batsman finally managed to edge one behind the wicket. Close to 25-odd overs were left for stumps and more important than looking to score off every ball, he first needed to stay around.
RAHUL: NUMB IN THE FEET
The Bengaluru boy hasn’t found his feet yet in South Africa. There was no feet movement when he chipped one back to Morne Morkel in the first innings. There was no feet moment again when he played a suicidal cut to backward point. He too was in a hurry like his opening partner.
PUJARA: SPRINTER’S DAY OUT
The first ball Pujara played at Centurion – tapping it to mid-on – he wanted a run. For someone who likes spending ‘light years’ at the crease, the urge to get off the mark with the very first delivery, in turn risking a very impressive South African fielding unit did not make any sense. Once wasn’t enough. Pujara decided to take a risk with none other than AB de Villiers in the second innings, trying to turn a double into a triple which was neither the need of that over, nor the hour and nor the session. He was back in the dressing room with an unwanted record.
ROHIT: WRONG PLACE, WRONG LINE
The Mumbai batsman is in the Test squad at the expense of another Mumbai batsman whose overseas batting average is one that most envy. As if the conundrum surrounding his selection wasn’t already the talk of the town, Rohit Sharma did the gravest of mistakes that a sub-continent batsman can do playing overseas – he played the wrong line to Kagiso Rabada, the world’s top-ranked bowler. The batsman clearly did not do himself any favours.