Did the Indian team miss a trick by rejecting BCCI’s offer to send Test specialists to South Africa a few weeks before the first Test to acclimatise? The BCCI officials, including the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (COA), had asked the team management whether it wants to send its core players to South Africa, but found no takers, The Indian Express has learnt.
The board had even suggested that top Test players could skip the limited-overs series against Sri Lanka and travel instead to South Africa.
“The BCCI had offered Indian team management that the core group of Test team can be sent to South Africa early. Players like Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane are not part of limited overs cricket and were playing local cricket here. The BCCI was ready to bear the cost but team management showed no interest and declined the offer,” a BCCI official told this newspaper. “We were even ready to let top players skip ODI and T20 legs of the series against Sri Lanka.”
The Indian team also decided to cancel the scheduled practice game, opting instead for extra practice sessions. They took rookie seamers along with them to South Africa to be deployed at the training sessions. The Indian Test team left for South Africa on December 28 and the first Test started on January 5.
The decision of the team management not to send players in advance to South Africa has become a talking point in the BCCI after India’s 72-run loss in the first Test. Most batsmen struggled to handle the seam movement and bounce in both the innings, and the bowlers let South Africa off the hook after reducing them to 12 for 3.
A day after a bruising loss in the first Test, Virat Kohli, India’s captain, had disagreed that the team’s preparation could have been better. “We were very well prepared. I don’t think we felt any lack of preparation. Even they got out for 130 in the second innings and they play here all the time. It was a wicket where things were happening every day. And I think we let ourselves down with the bat, that’s for sure.” Kohli had said.
Back in India, the cricket board feels that it was team management’s call to take up their suggestion. “Players like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman were sent to Australia or New Zealand where they played with local teams before joining the Indian team. The BCCI has no problem in arranging practice games before any overseas tour. It’s the team management which has to take the call. When Dravid had requested for early trip to New Zealand the board straight away said yes as these Under-19 boys have not played in New Zealand before,” the source said.
The BCCI had approved the request from India Under-19 coach Rahul Dravid to send the team to New Zealand more than two weeks before the world cup. The BCCI ensured the Under-19 team played Central Districts before their two practice games with international Under-19 teams, as scheduled by ICC.
It’s not only U-19, the Indian women’s team will reach South Africa a week before they play their first ODI.
Kohli talked about how the Indian team recovered well in both innings but questions remain if proper acclimatising would have helped them not to lose grip in the first place. “We rectified the errors we made in the first innings by letting them off after having them 12 for 3. We plugged that gap pretty nicely in the morning today (fourth and final day of the Test). Getting them out for 208 felt chaseable, it felt very realistic, but again we needed someone to go out there and get 75 or 80 and not 20-25-30 runs. We wanted one big partnership to get the job done which we failed to do and again we lost four wickets in four overs. If you do that, it is very tough for you to come back and win Test matches from there. But having been put under pressure twice, we came back really nicely into the game and gave ourselves a fair chance of winning this Test match even after not having played our best cricket.”