'Even DK was finding it a little bit difficult at the start. The wicket played a huge role in this game. And as for that strategy, we can and we will be going with it in the next matches as well.'
It may have looked odd to send Axar Patel ahead of India's 'designated finisher' Dinesh Karthik in the second T20 against South Africa but top-order batter Shreyas Iyer defended the strategy, saying the need of the hour was to "rotate strike".
India were struggling to get going and were 112/6 when Axar Patel got out in the 17th over as it was mainly due to the veteran Karthik's pyrotechnics while batting at No 7 that they could get post a respectable 148/6.
"It's something we had strategised earlier as well. We had seven overs left when Axar went in, and he's someone who can take the singles and keep rotating the strike," Shreyas said at the post-match media interaction on Sunday.
"Also, at that point in time, we didn't require someone to go in and start hitting from ball one. DK can obviously do that, but he has been a really good asset for us after 15 overs, where he can go in and start hitting straightaway."
Promoted to No 6, Axar scored 10 off 11 balls before being cleaned up by Anrich Nortje, while Karthik slammed an unbeaten 30 from 21 balls.
Shreyas argued that even Karthik had struggled to get his timing right like many others on the day on a two-paced wicket.
Karthik took 15 balls to score eight runs but then he broke free in the next six, smashing two sixes and two fours.
“Even he was finding it a little bit difficult at the start. The wicket played a huge role in this game. And as for that strategy, we can and we will be going with it in the next matches as well," Shreyas said.
On hindsight, it may have felt that India could have notched 160-plus had the in-form Karthik got more time in the middle.
Shreyas however agreed that they fell short by about 12 runs in the end.
"If I look back I think 160 would have been a really good score on this wicket to put them under a little bit of pressure. But we were like 12 runs short," he added.
For India, the Kolkata Knight Riders skipper was the top-scorer on the day as he scored a sedate 35-ball 40 and also spent some anxious moments at the two-paced wicket.
"It was really tough to be honest, I played 35 balls but I was not able to identify how the wicket was playing.
"I was trying to time the ball as well, I actually tried everything out there. But it was really difficult especially for the new batters to come in and get going," the 27-year-old said.
"On top of that the ball was staying low from one end, and from the other there was a variable bounce as well and the ball was seaming. I could not really talk much about it since every wicket can be challenging for us. But we don't blame it for the loss," he added.
At a time when most of the batters struggled at Barabati, comeback man Heinrich Klaasen stood out and smashed 81 off 46 balls as the Proteas chased down the target with 10 balls to spare.
"Klaasen targeted our spinners really well. He played shots off good lengths. The ball wasn't turning and he was standing and delivering.
"The strokes he hit mostly landed over the ropes. I don't think our bowlers did much wrong.
Trailing 0-2, the Rishabh Pant-led India now have the onerous task to win three matches in a row to seal the five-match series.
"It's a great challenge, a lot of pressure on us. But I can't see anything which is going to stop us," he signed off.