IND vs SA: India paying the price for lack of preparation

India has played some shoddy cricket at critical moments but it has also been combative in both the Tests and had chances to win. Looking back, they might have been able to nail at least one of the two Tests with greater preparation. The BCCI, clearly, cannot escape blame.

Cheteshwar Pujara's form has been an area of concern for India.   -  AP

It’s astonishing that India journeyed to South Africa for such an important campaign with virtually no preparation.

Till less than a week before the team’s departure to South Africa, India was involved in a Twenty20 series, one without any context, against Sri Lanka at home.

That was the time when the players and the team-management needed to gather in a camp, lasting at least 10 days, back home before embarking on the demanding tour.

The cricketers had to get into the Test mode mentally and technically. There had to be strategy sessions, with the team-management and the cricketers focussing on Test cricket alone, looking at different scenarios and putting in place game-plans.

Instead, nothing happened. With the team-management, the coaching staff and several members of the Test team, taking on Sri Lanka in the game’s shortest format, the Indians were rushed into the South African series.

READ: Dhoni on India’s SA debacle: ‘Look at the positives’

And all that was scheduled ahead of the first Test in Cape Town on January 5 was a two-day practise game which the Indian team felt was a waste of time. Instead it opted for centre-wicket practise.

Now, tour matches that are not first-class – these games do not have a designated eleven and most batsmen and bowlers in the squad get a run – clearly lack intensity and serve little purpose.

Given the significance of the series – India was travelling to a land where it has never before triumphed in a Test series – the side should have had two or at least one three-day first-class match in South Africa ahead of the first Test.

It is interesting to note here that when India won its first ever Test on South African soil – at the Wanderers in 2006 – they had gone into the match after defeating a strong Rest of South Africa team in a three-day first -class game on a lively pitch at Potchefstroom.

During the match, the Indians learnt a lot about the conditions, the batsmen got a fair idea about the extra bounce and movement off the seam on the pitches here.

READ: South Africa lords at Centurion to clinch series

And the pacemen made adjustments to their length – you don’t really have to pitch short on these surfaces to get more lift. The ball can climb from just short of a good length as well.

Came the first Test at the Wanderers and the Indians ambushed South Africa on a typically juicy pitch. Rahul Dravid and his men had made history.

This Indian team, sadly, was not given an opportunity to get used to these conditions by a Board that has got its priorities wrong.

Cricket should come first, not striking deals and making loads of cash. Of course, money is important but not at the cost of hurting India’s chances away from home.

India being No. 1 in Tests doesn’t tell the whole story. In fact, since 2011, India’s win-loss record in Tests in South Africa, England, Australia and New Zealand is an abysmal 1 (victory)-17 (defeats).    

The Board had only to cast its eyes on these numbers to realise that it needed to give India the best possible chance in a Test series outside of the sub-continent and a much- weakened West Indies. The BCCI looked the other way.

To his credit, Virat Kohli has not made excuses for the team’s reverses here. The Indian captain has neither blamed lack of preparation nor the excessively seaming conditions at Newlands for the adverse results.

India has played some shoddy crickets at critical moments but it has also been combative in both the Tests and had chances to win.

Looking back, they might have been able to nail at least one of the two Tests with greater preparation. The BCCI, clearly, cannot escape blame.

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