Aamir Sohail - Southpaw Says

Aamir Sohail analyses and questions India’s approach in the Ahmedabad Test.

Friday, April 04, 2022
India on the backfoot

In my previous article I had emphasized that the South Africans cannot be taken lightly, as they have played well in the sub-continent before. In the recent past, they have won Tests in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Though they lost a series in Sri Lanka, you must remember that they were without some of their key players. 

They are quite comfortable playing in this part of the world now and it was obvious in the first Test at Chennai where they looked and played as a well-rehearsed unit.

It was mighty important for India to do well in the second Test, knowing the fact that Sachin won't be playing and there was a cloud of doubt on Anil Kumble and Ishant Sharma's fitness. Amid all this confusion, the support staff should have made themselves useful to the captain and guided him. Right now, one can't help but pity him. The support staff should have been able to come up with a risk-free formula and rejuvenate the team against the well-oiled South Africans

The confusion became evident along with the lack of preparation when after picking three seamers on a well grassed pitch that had a lot of moisture, they opted to bat. That decision was taken in spite of the fact that they were a batsman short. Also, the fact that they were just off from one of the flattest wickets at Chennai to a very juicy pitch wasn't taken into consideration. It would have been a daunting task for their openers to adjust accordingly. Sehwag has the tendency to play aggressively and he was carrying a lot of momentum after scoring the fastest triple century in the history of the game. It would have been difficult for him to adjust on this kind of pitch. With Jaffer having a problem with the moving ball, it was quite apparent that the openers were unable to adapt to the situation.

Credit must be given to the South Africans for the way they played mind games on Sehwag before this Test match, declaring the plan to counter his attacking methods with short-pitched bowling. For me, it is a classic example of reverse psychology which worked pretty well on a player who just massacred them a few days back. Targeting him effectively, challenging his ego -- it showed in this Test match that Sehwag couldn't adapt to fast bowling on a grassy wicket -- led to his downfall and the plan worked for South Africa. Their tactics worked and it showed that the South Africans prepared better than the Indians. It was left to Rahul Dravid to salvage the situation, but he got a beauty of a ball and in my opinion any batsman in the world would have gotten out on the delivery.

The mighty Indian batting order came apart and their egos took a severe beating.

A lot of questions are unanswered. Most of them are a mystery. Like, why did Anil Kumble decide to bat first, knowing the fact that there was something in the pitch for both pace and spin? With enough grass and moisture, he probably could have used it better. Didn't he have faith in his bowlers to press on against the South Africans? The decision to bat first will haunt Anil for some time.

Once the wicket dried out, the bowlers looked ordinary and the Indians bowlers were unable to apply any pressure on the Africans. With Jacques Kallis and Abraham De Villiers guiding the Proteas to a match winning total and none of the bowlers threatening to produce something magical, the pressure is building up on the home team. Only Harbhajan Singh managed to extract something out of the wicket picking up four wickets. But even they came at a cost of over 30 runs per wicket. The South Africans have snatched the initiative from India in a big way!