Rohit Sharma was careful in the immediate aftermath of a disastrous Test to not blame his bowlers or criticise his batsmen. He tried his best to maintain his composure first during the post-match ceremony and later at the media conference – – but a couple of observations did pop out eventually.
He didn’t take umbrage at the criticism or lose his composure but there was a moment when he gently reminded how well the batting unit has done in the past.
“Don’t forget what we did in Australia and England- we did well with our batting. Sometimes, these kinds of performances happen. It’s not as if we don’t know how to bat outside India. Sometimes, the opposition plays better than us. That’s my thought. It’s not about how many overs they played and how many we played. In the last four tours, go look at how we performed,” Rohit told reporters.
That’s that from the Test at Centurion.
South Africa win by an innings and 32 runs, lead the series 1-0.
— BCCI (@BCCI) December 28, 2023
Was the batting failure down to technical issues, went a question and Rohit zeroed in on where he felt his batsmen went wrong.
“When you come to these conditions, more than technique, you have to have faith in yourself. You need to have a plan – that’s most important. Everyone has their own technique – we can’t say ‘play close to the body, leave outside off’; everyone has their own technique but individual plan is more important. To understand their bowler’s strengths – they also had slightly inexperienced bowlers. You have to keep all this in mind.”
Rohit himself had fallen pulling in the first innings, the 7th time in his last 20 overseas innings he has fallen to that shot. The young opener Yashasvi Jaiswal edged a flamboyant drive in the first innings, and was surprised by the bouncer in the second. Shubman Gill was strangled down leg-side in the first, and fell, playing all over a full ball in the second, again failing in the weight-transfer issues he has had for a while now. Shreyas Iyer fell to a similar full ball in the second, that beat the airy waft.
Rohit was of the opinion that his batsmen need to adapt to the conditions and learn when and whom to target.
“It’s a mix of everything – intent, bit of discipline, and showing extra temperament. You just can’t go with one mindset and say ‘this is how I am going to bat’. You have to adapt. Understand that there will be time when the bowlers are tired and that’s when you cash in,” Rohit said.
A valiant 76 by Virat Kohli showed why this format is the ultimate test!
The very innings that made every 🇮🇳 believe till the end 😍
Will he continue his form in the next test as well?
— Star Sports (@StarSportsIndia) December 28, 2023
He pointed out the example of KL Rahul’s sensational hundred in the first innings that was achieved with a blend of judicious attack and tight defense.
“What KL Rahul did in the first innings was a perfect example of intent and respecting the conditions. He scored the runs at a strike rate of 70-odd I think and he put the bad balls away. That’s intent. We are not going to go out there and swing our bats. These are not conditions for that. There is a thin line between showing intent and getting reckless. Every individual is different and has to understand what better they can do keeping the conditions in mind,” Rohit said. “Motivation isn’t needed. They are all playing international cricket and playing for country.”
When the questions hovered over the bowling, Rohit felt Jasprit Bumrah needed more support from the other three bowlers – Mohammed Siraj, Shardul Thakur, and Prasidh Krishna.
“Our bowling also. It wasn’t a 450 pitch, we gave too many runs. Happens. We can’t depend on one bowler. The other three also need to do their roles. We have to learn from the opposing team.
“Bumrah bowled really well. All he wanted was a bit of support from the other side which he didn’t get. It can happen. They tried but it didn’t work out. Games like this teaches you a lot of things about what you can do as a bowling group and come back stronger from this game,” said Rohit.
The Indian captain also noted that even South Africa had a couple of inexperienced bowlers but they regrouped well as a unit. This was in reference to a question on Prasidh Krishna and his inexperience with red-ball cricket. He also said that the team will back Prasidh.
“I agree he hasn’t played a lot of cricket but there are 3 guys in their team [South Africa’s] also who haven’t played a lot of cricket and they showed how to do it. It’s not about legs, it’s about your mind. If you think you haven’t played too many first class games, then it wont’ work. You have to be grateful for the opportunity. He has shown that he has a lot of potential, and been with the team for a while. Obviously he felt pressure, nervous.
“But the guy has the game to excel in this format. We are going to back him. He has a great attitude about his game which helps us, moving forward.”
How will #TeamIndia respond with the bat?
— Star Sports (@StarSportsIndia) December 28, 2023
India went to the first Test at Centurion with an intrasquad game, and there have been murmurs whether they should have played a proper practice game against a first-class team. But this is how the Indian team has been doing for a while now, and Rohit reiterated the reason why.
“See, we have been playing practice games, first-class also for the last 4 years. But we don’t get the kind of pitch that we get in matches. So, its better to play our own game on our kind of pitch. In Australia also last time, the ball in practice pitches wasn’t bouncing over knees , and you get different pitches in matches. We kept that all in our mind and decided this. Even the bowlers in those practice games are 125 kmph type bowlers. We have experienced that.
So it’s better that we play with our bowlers and prepare our kind of pitches.”
And from the highs of being cherished for his captaincy in the world cup to the lows of Centurion. On air the likes of Ravi Shastri and other commentators had questioned his decision to start with Prasidh Krishna and Shardul Thakur post lunch on the second day against Dean Elgar and co.
He wasn’t asked about any specific instance but was asked to share his feelings on how “disheartening it is as a captain not able to put pressure on the opposition as a batting and bowling unit”.
“That’s the job of a captain. It’s not always going to be happy days. These are the days to stand up as a captain and be with the team. We shall analyse what went wrong but also important to leave a loss like this here and not take it with us to Cape Town. When you take the job, this is what you sign for, You will have days like this. I have full confidence in the guys here now.”