India’s head coach Ravi Shastri defended the team management’s decision to leave out Ajinkya Rahane from the first two Tests against South Africa, saying Rohit Sharma was the best option going by form. He also said that 10 days of extra practice would’ve made the difference.
One of the most successful Indian batsmen overseas in recent years and deputy skipper Rahane was not picked for Cape Town and Centurion Tests, with the Indian team management preferring to go with limited-overs specialist Sharma on “current form”.
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But Sharma’s failure and the Indian batting’s inability to stand up to the South African pace attack in the first 2 Tests attracted widespread criticism, forcing the management to rethink about Rahane.
Talking about the same, Shastri said, “If Ajinkya (Rahane) had played the first Test and not done well, you would have asked me the same question about why Rohit hasn’t played. Rohit played, he didn’t do well, so you are asking me why Ajinkya didn’t play. The same would have happened with the fast bowlers. So you have choices. The team management has discussed what is the best option. They stick by it and they go by it.”
He further added, “Overseas, you go on current form, you go on conditions. You see which player can adapt to certain conditions quicker than the other.”
By looking at the practice sessions of Team India on Sunday and Monday, it seems that there are certain chances that Rahane might return to the playing XI for the pride-saving third Test starting on Wednesday. The India coach said on overseas tours, a team is forced to select their playing XI keeping conditions in mind.
Describing the changes in the overseas conditions, Shastri said, “Chopping and changing overseas is easier. In India, you don’t need to chop and change because you know what the conditions are and for which bowler to play, as opposed to what kind of track you will get. Whether you need a bowler with the bounce or you need a bowler with swing, so that’s where the chopping and changing starts.”
Talking about the lack of practice ahead of the series, Ravi said, “In hindsight, I would say another 10 days of practice here would have made a difference. But that’s no excuse. The pitch we play on, it’s the same for both sides and I would rather focus on the 20 wickets we have taken.”
Shasrti also said the team will have to correct the “schoolboy errors” that led to three run-outs in the lost second Test against South Africa, asserting that conditions are hard enough without such mistakes adding to the misery. He explained, “It hurts a lot. As it is the conditions are very tough, and on top of that, if someone gets run out then you feel bad and there is no doubt of that. You hope that those mistakes don’t happen again because at times they are schoolboy errors.”
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Indian batsmen were completely outplayed by South Africa’s menacing pace battery so far, added to their problems with poor shot selection. The run-outs of Hardik Pandya and Cheteshwar Pujara in the Centurion Test particularly stood out. While Pandya was guilty of not dragging his bat in, Pujara foolishness for risky runs in both the innings was avoidable.
The Indian coach concluded by addressing the scenarios, he said, “They have to be rectified. In tough conditions like these, where there is not much between the two teams, you cannot afford to give away wickets like that. Boys have been told that.”