Indian bowlers – Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya and R Ashwin – put up their hand and scalped twenty South African wickets in first Test in Cape Town.
But the Indian batsmen – Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and Rohit Sharma – could not do justice to bowlers’ efforts as Faf du Plessis-led Proteas won the Newlands Test by 72 runs, defending 207 runs on Day four of the opening Test of the three-match series.
While bowlers did do no harm to their reputation, there are views that had India played a warm-up game, it would have helped the batsmen and eventually the team to win the first Test and take 1-0 lead in the series.
While Kohli and co opted not to play a warm-up game and instead opted for extra practice sessions, with four rookie Indian pacers, in addition to Bhuvi, Shami, Bumrah, Hardik, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav, bowling at the batsmen, it is now learnt that the team management declined Board of Control for Cricket in India’s (BCCI) offer to send Test specialists like Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane early to South Africa to get acclimatised to the conditions.
It is reported that even the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (COA) had offered the same opinion to the Indian team management. BCCI, in fact, had also putforth a suggestion to let top Test stars to skip limited-overs series against Sri Lanka and go to South Africa early instead.
BCCI, it is reported, were ready to bear all the expenses if the players had left for South African shores well in advance to prepare for the gruelling series. But the team left for South Africa on December 28 and the first Test commenced on January 5.
“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 The Indian Express.
“We were even ready to let top players skip ODI and T20 legs of the series against Sri Lanka,” added the source.
Kohli, meanwhile, played down the lack of preparation notion following India’s defeat in Cape Town.
“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. We let ourselves down with the bat, that’s for sure,” said Kohli during the post-match press conference.
BCCI, meanwhile, are of the opinion it was team management’s call whether to pay heed to cricket board’s 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,” added the report.