India would be going into the Test series without any match practice as their only tour game was called off due to poor ground conditions. Abhijit Banare explains how hasty scheduling and lack of practice could affect India’s performance.
Ahead of the Test series, Zaheer Khan, Ravichandran Ashwin and other players addressed the press. Ashwin was upbeat and emphasised about the value of an overseas victory. Yes, every player dreams of an emphatic overseas victory against a formidable side as much as winning a World Cup. But have India done enough on this tour to earn it? Or to an extend beyond that. Has the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) cared for the scheduling of the series while brazenly cutting short and negotiating over a full-length tour mentioned in the Future Tours Programme (FTP)? Perhaps the board didn’t think too much about the outcome of the series as much as it did over some other issues.
This tour was supposed to be pivotal for India as it is their first overseas since the debacle Down Under in 2011-2012. And more so, it is their first after the retirement of Sachin Tendulkar. Not that the entire team was overly dependent on him but it marked the passing of the baton. And now ahead of the Tests, India have been comprehensively thrashed in the One-Day Internationals (ODI) series. More than the defeat, the batsmen in-form were made to look ordinary by Dale Steyn.
You don’t see Mahendra Singh Dhoni giving excuses for a poor performance. Yet, one of the statements that was consistently heard throughout the ODI series was the lack of time to acclimatise to the South African conditions. Dhoni didn’t have to state the obvious as match practice in alien condition is of prime importance.
The two-day practice match against the South African Invitational XI side was an opportunity to regroup and test themselves for the longest format. Even though, at the post match conference of the third ODI, Dhoni said that they are better equipped to deal with pace and bounce, he would have been content playing at least two tour matches.
And if a Hindustan Times report is to be believed, India’s match at Benoni was scheduled due to good relations between Cassim Suliman, former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the venue and the BCCI. The original schedule involved an ODI at this stadium but a practice match was finalised in the shortened itinerary. The venue is known for rain affecting play but the drainage facilities aren’t yet up to the mark as some of the other international venues.
If this is a fact, then the board has cared less about making things easier for their team. Going into a series, anticipating some hostile fast bowling, the Indians would be desperately looking for practice. We don’t know whether the lack of practice would be evident in the Test matches but to overpower a Test No 1 on their home turf deserves more time, understanding of the conditions and using it better than the opposition.
(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)
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