This one-day series has certainly been a good eye-opener for us,” India’s head coach Rahul Dravid admitted
When India left for South Africa for a three-match Test and One-Day International (ODI) series, there had been so much hope and excitement. It was believed to be a golden opportunity for the blue brigade to claim their maiden Test series win in the Rainbow nation.
Even though they began the tour on a high note winning the Boxing Day Test in Centurion, but due to some poor batting, they lost the path and missed another chance of accomplishing the elusive achievement as the hosts won the series by 2-1.
‘Eye-opener’ for India
But again, because India had an excellent ODI series in 2018 beating the Proteas 5-1, they were expected to seal the 50-over series with ease. However, a young South African team shocked the tourists winning the series by a huge margin of 3-0.
“This one-day series has certainly been a good eye-opener for us,” India’s head coach Rahul Dravid admitted in a press conference validating how surprised the team had been with their performances. “We haven’t played a lot of one-day cricket (of late),” he added.
Dravid went on to explain about their future planning before the 2023 ODI World Cup in India. “Luckily, we have got a fair bit of time to go before the World Cup,” the newly-appointed coach showed full belief in the team’s improvement. “We will get better and will improve; there is no doubt about it,” he added.
Batting in the middle-order
India had failed to chase in two games after being in a very comfortable situation in both of the games. In the said games, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli, after keeping India’s chase on track failed to convert their half-centuries into big knocks. Once they got dismissed, the young Indian middle-order, in the absence of Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja, couldn’t finish the job.
“We certainly could do better in the middle overs; we understand the template and obviously a large part of that template is also dependent on the balance of the squad,” Dravid pointed out when asked about his thought-process on should India require to change their safety-approach in the one-day games.
“Some of the guys who really help us balance out the squad and give us those all-round options at numbers 6, 7 and 8 were not available for selection; so hopefully when they come back, it will give us a little more depth, which will allow us to play in a slightly different manner,” he added.
He also sketched out how India had to pay for some of their poor shots and not being smart enough at crucial points. “Having said that, South Africa who batted first on two occasions scored only 290 (296) and 280 (287); if I think back to the 30th over (of the second innings in India’s batting) in both games, we should have actually chased them down,” he said.
Praises Deepak Chahar and Shardul Thakur
One of the few positives for India from the series had been the batting of Deepak Chahar and Shardul Thakur. The former after pulling off a win from the jaws of defeat in Sri Lanka last year, had almost copied his magical act with a 34-ball 54 at Newlands in the third ODI. The latter in the first two games made 50* and 40* playing as a seam bowling all-rounder.
“He (Chahar) has shown in the opportunities that he has got in Sri Lanka and over here as well that he has got some really good ability with the bat,” spoke Rahul Dravid.
“I’ve seen him at India A as well and I know he can bat quite well; obviously, we know what he can do with the ball,” he added.
India’s head coach also lavished full praise on Shardul Thakur as a player who can contribute both with bat and ball. “It’s nice to have people like him (Chahar) and Shardul, who we saw in the last couple of games being able to contribute with the bat as well,” he said.
On the captaincy of KL Rahul
Almost when the whole country is busy in scrutinizing the captaincy of KL Rahul, coach Dravid opted to come out in support of the Karnataka boy. “He did a good job; it’s not easy to end on the wrong sides of some of the results,” Dravid responded about Rahul’s leadership.
“He’s just starting out and I think he did a very decent job; and he will constantly get better as he captains,” the former India captain said.
Improvement desired in skill of wicket-taking in middle overs
One of the main reasons for India’s success on the last tour of South Africa in 2017-18 was their spinners’ wicket-taking ability and economy in the middle overs which put enormous pressure on the opposition; what they failed to do in this series.
“I think through the middle overs, we need to improve our wicket-taking options,” India head coach catalyzed the middle over planning. “Spinners do play a big role in that but also with the quicks coming back and the kinds of balls we bowl, we have discussed that,” he added.
Dravid also emphasized on the importance of the pacers in the middle part of the game, saying “We do understand that is an area in the game we have been behind a little bit - the ability to take wickets through the middle overs - and what we need to do about that.”
The sixth bowling option and Venkatesh Iyer
Before the beginning of the series, stand-in captain, KL Rahul talked about how the team was preparing in utilizing Venkatesh Iyer as the sixth bowling option. However, after keeping the ball away from him, India provided just five overs to him in the second ODI before dropping him in the third ODI.
“When you are a sixth bowler in the team, it can happen you aren’t required to bowl,” Dravid explained the prospect. “The idea is obviously to try and develop people like Venkatesh Iyer as a sixth bowling option; whether it’s Venkatesh or Hardik when he comes back,” he added.
Dravid also elucidated the potential thinking of backing these players along with Ravindra Jadeja who certainly has the potential to bat at number 6 in specific match situations when he returns to the team.
The India head coach also explained the team’s expectations from Venkatesh Iyer. “I know he (Venkatesh Iyer) has batted at the top of the order for KKR (during the 2021 season of IPL) and at times for MP (Madhya Pradesh, Iyer’s domestic side), though he has batted in the middle-order as well for MP,” he said.
“In our team, we are looking for a number 6 who can be a sixth bowling option; that was the role we had for him in mind,” he added.
India’s next white-ball assignment
Just after a two-week break, the national side will lock horns at home against West Indies in a three-match ODI series which will commence from February 6 at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad. India will later play the Caribbean side in a three-match T20I series which will kick off February 16 at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata. Here is the link to the video of the press conference.