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Why India did not do well in SA Test series

February 14, 2018 18:13 IST

'I think going out to England, we have heard some guys are going to play county cricket. Preparation-wise I think they will be better equipped when they go there or to Australia.'

Shaun Pollock says India's priorities for the Test and ODI series in South Africa did not match the same preparation.

Virat Kohli leads the Indian team out to the middle

IMAGE: Captain Virat Kohli, left, leads the Indian team out on to the field in the Test series against South Africa. Photograph: BCCI

South African pace bowling great Shaun Pollock criticised India's misplaced priorities and approach to the Test series against the Proteas, saying the team's lack of preparation stood out despite a historic ODI triumph.

“I was a little bit surprised by their batting. When they came on this tour I thought it was going to be their strength. I was a bit disappointed by the way they went (in the Test series)," Pollock said.

He asked if India would be satisfied with winning the ODI series when they should have prioritised winning the Test series instead.

"Looking back, I think they have identified that, preparation-wise, they needed to be here (in South Africa) for more time. I suppose it goes down to what are the actual goals you want to achieve. If you want to win Test series away from home, then you have to give them more priority. And priority means more preparation.

"I think going out to England, we have heard some guys are going to play county cricket. So, preparation-wise I think they will be better equipped when they go there or to Australia,” said the former all-rounder on Wednesday."

India lost the three-match Test series 2-1, after being walloped in the first two games, but secured a first ODI series win in South Africa on Tuesday night.

Pollock said, “We have seen they are now settled in ODIs. Probably, they could have structured the tour better and had ODIs before Tests, and that could have been better preparation for India.

"I think practice matters. You need to have two practice matches and have a guarantee that you are genuinely good opposition than just developing players. You have to set your goals."

South Africa's all-time leading Test wicket-taker added, "Is it a great thing to win the ODI series or is it a great achievement to come and win a Test series in South Africa, which you haven’t done. Maybe that’s where the priorities haven’t met the same preparation."

Virat Kohli celebrates after scoring a century in the second Test against South Africa

IMAGE: Virat Kohli celebrates after scoring a century in the second Test against South Africa. Photograph: James Oatway/Reuters

Virat Kohli’s form in the ODI series has been one of the highlights for India, and a reason for their triumph. The skipper has 429 runs in five matches, while he was also the only batsman on both sides to score a hundred in the Test series.

“I saw an interview at the start of the tour and he was talking about backing himself in these conditions. That positivity and approach paid off for me.

"He wasn't fearful of the conditions and he wanted to grind out performances. He obviously came here with the right mind set. I thought the rest of the batting group would have been similar, but there wasn’t anyone else who supported him particularly in the Tests.”

Pollock said, as captain, Kohli is trying to instill new confidence in the team.

“Kohli has had some guys support him in the ODIs and that; that’s why India have been so good. It is a slightly depleted (South African) team but, in saying that, the wins India managed, especially in the first three, were very comprehensive."

Asked about Kohli’s on-field aggressive brand of leadership, the former Proteas skipper said, “I am not saying aggression is what he is offering, but it’s more the attitude that I can back myself, win the battle and come out on top.

"Malcolm Marshall taught me to have a great respect for the opposition but also to have a great self-belief that wherever you come up against them, you respect them but you win the battle."

Bhuvneshwar Kumar

IMAGE: Bhuvneshwar Kumar provided sting to the pace attack and was India's player of the Test series, finishing with ten wickets despite missing the second Test. Photograph: BCCI

On Kohli's aggressive approach, he further added, “I think that’s what he wants to install (in the Indian team), and the confidence."

The key is to strike a balance...

"I suppose it’s always edgy, or can be. Confidence might go into over aggression and over confidence and that’s the balance that they need to find. But you can always curb that aggression and attitude.

"In international sport you have to have emotion, but it matters how you channel that emotion towards being calm and towards performance rather than peripheral issues,” he added.

Pollock was all praise for the Indian bowling attack that managed to take all 60 wickets in the Test series and continued to impress in the ODIs as well.

“That’s fantastic. But you have to look at surfaces that they have played on. The hardest one to get wickets was Centurion, but on the other two, there was plenty of assistance.

"But, yes, I am impressed with India’s stock.”

He felt India now has plenty of options in bowling, unlike in the past.

“It’s the first time that India have had 5-6 guys that can be picked and do a good job. In the past, India have relied only on Javagal Srinath and Zaheer Khan, or somebody like that.

"Even the spinners did a good job. So the bowling was good. If you can keep those bowlers together as a group there is no reason why India cannot be successful in England and Australia where the fast bowlers will have to do a job."

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