Don’t write off India, says McMillan

It’s been a day since India suffered a humiliating defeat in the first Test at the Newlands. But McMillan believes that South Africa must not become complacent.

Brian McMillan during the 1992 series against India.   -  V.V. Krishnan

“India should just go home,” Brian McMillan chuckled.

A few seconds later, the former South Africa pacer laughed out loud and made sure that the earlier sentence was taken in good humour. “No, no, it’s not like that. You can’t write off India from the series. They have got some real big names,” McMillan, one of South Africa’s yesteryear bowling all-rounders, told Sportstar on Tuesday evening.

It’s been a day since India suffered a humiliating defeat in the first Test at the Newlands, raising question mark over its future in the series. But McMillan — who was a part of the South Africa side which won the Test series against India in 1992(1-0) and 1996 (2-0) — believes that South Africa must not become complacent. “Let’s face it, it was a tough wicket to bat on and the conditions were conducive to Vernon Philander, that worked for him. But then, let’s not get too excited,” he warned.

With the series now heading to Centurion and the Wanderers, McMillan feels that those surfaces would throw up challenges to both the sides. “There will be bounce on the track and hopefully it would not jag as much as it did in Cape Town. Hopefully, there will be some real competitive cricket in the next couple of Tests,” the 54-year-old said.

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The former cricketer also feels that instead of being cocooned, the Indian batsmen should take a cue from Ravichandran Ashwin’s innings on Monday. “Even he batted steadily at that position. Tomorrow, it could be a Virat Kohli or a Shikhar Dhawan. Let’s not forget, these players are real match winners and they have done so well for their side over the years,” he said.

McMillan was part of South Africa’s lethal bowling line-up that featured some of the biggest names like Alan Donald, Fannie de Villiers and Shaun Pollock. True to their reputation, that batch would invariably keep the visiting teams under wraps.

“Even he (Ashwin) batted steadily... Tomorrow, it could be a Virat Kohli or a Shikhar Dhawan. Let’s not forget, these players are real match winners and they have done so well for their side over the years.”

But today’s South African team is mostly young. With Dale Steyn getting injured yet again, the bowling attack is mostly reliant on the experience of Morne Morkel and Philander. Young but supremely talented, Kagiso Rabada will also be in the thickest of things.

And McMillan is of the impression that ‘if you bowl in proper line and length, you would succeed’.

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“That’s the bottom line. In these conditions if you bowl at the right spots, the best of the batsmen would also find it difficult,” he said. “That’s exactly what Philander did. He has done it in the past and has taken advantage of the conducive conditions.”

While he agrees that the Cape Town track jagged a bit more than expected, things would ease out in the next two Tests. “Seamers would get that benefit. It would offer great contests,” McMillan, who played 38 Tests and 78 ODIs for South Africa, added.

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But then, would the host be missing the injured Steyn?

McMillan believes that there would be someone to fit into his shoes. “It’s a pity that South Africa would miss him. But with Morkel, Philander and Rabada around, there are always enough people to pick things up quickly,” McMillan said, reiterating that it would be unfair to write off India.

India would hope McMillan is right.