Jaffer: ‘Credit should be given to South Africa’

Ahead of the dead rubber in Johannesburg, Wasim Jaffer, the Mumbai stalwart and a batsman who possesses a Test century in South Africa, offers his balanced insight to the debacle that punctured India’s aura of invincibility.

According to Jaffer, South Africa’s collective bowling effort is a big factor in the narrative of the series so far, and the unfamiliar pitches could not be admitted as an excuse.   -  PTI

India’s captain may have hinted at an indictment of its batsmen for the tame surrender in a Test series expected to be a clash of the titans. But explaining the defeat through that lens alone could prevent the overall picture of the situation from emerging.

Ahead of the dead rubber in Johannesburg, Wasim Jaffer, the Mumbai stalwart who is fresh from overseeing a historic season for his adopted team Vidarbha, offered his balanced insight to the debacle that punctured India’s aura of invincibility. According to him, South Africa’s collective bowling effort is a big factor in the narrative of the series so far, and the unfamiliar pitches could not be admitted as an excuse.

“I wouldn’t say the defeat was due to faulty technique. South Africa bowled really well, and credit should be given to them. They applied pressure, and bowled well in pairs,” Jaffer told Sportstar.

“The two pitches (in Cape Town and Centurion) behaved differently to how they usually do.

Centurion has lots of pace and bounce usually, which wasn’t there to see this time. But we stress too much on the wicket, and we don’t need to do so. There is a lot of experience among India’s batsmen, and we need to adapt. The conditions are the same for both teams,” he reasoned.

The complaint, Jaffer said, was a familiar one. “As soon as we travel, we emphasise so much about the pitch and the conditions. We have all played in these conditions (and it’s unreasonable to pin the blame on such factors).”

Yet, India had a few missing links, too, that contributed to its downfall. In Centurion, Jaffer pointed out, India was impeded by the lack of big scores from its top order.

“It was a pitch on which you need the top three batsmen to stay for long. I wanted (Cheteshwar) Pujara to bat for long. We really missed Pujara (who was run out cheaply in both innings). We needed to score at least 450 (in the first innings) to win. The wicket of Murali Vijay was also crucial, as he usually bats for long. It seemed he was struggling physically, and in the end he departed (for 46) with a soft dismissal,” Jaffer said.

How much did India miss Ajinkya Rahane - a batsman known to score runs in unfamiliar terrains - in the middle?

“He should have been picked. Rahane is an important part of the Indian Test side, and a proven performer. He has scored runs on green tops; he has runs in England, Australia and even in South Africa. The team management should have backed him; after (Virat) Kohli, he could be rated as the second best batsman in the side,” Jaffer said.

Chandrakant Pandit transformed Vidarbha

Contrary to India’s struggles, of late, Jaffer’s own involvement has been with a team that has learnt to turn the tables and establish a “culture of winning.” The Ranji Trophy title win was Vidarbha’s first, and Jaffer’s ninth. The veteran run-maker spoke briefly on what was a memorable season for him and his team.

“The team members were close to each other, like a small family. Vidarbha was never known to play like this; it was good at home, but not very competent away from home. That has been its biggest change, that it was just as good away from home, too. Chandrakant Pandit transformed the side, and we performed as a team. Winning was now a habit; this was a big change in the culture.

“It was a very satisfying season for me. If we leave out Karnataka, we beat everybody handsomely – we had seven outright wins. However, this shouldn’t be a one off; we should back this up in subsequent seasons,” Jaffer said.