Ahead of India’s first Test against South Africa at Centurion, Indian head coach Rahul Dravid said on Sunday that the series being a short, two-match affair leaves India with less time to bounce back from any adversity and the team is motivated to roar back into their winning ways following the dissapointment of ICC Cricket World Cup final loss to Australia. India will kickstart the two-match Test series against South Africa with the first Test at Centurion from Tuesday onwards. For many seniors like Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Jasprit Bumrah, this will be their first international assignment following the loss to Australia in the World Cup finals last month.
In the pre-match press conference, Dravid said that India will have to play really well in these two matches since the series is short and their past results despite not winning a Test series give them some confidence to do well.
“We have been coming here since 1992, played some good cricket, won some Test matches and drawn some. But we are yet to win a Test series. We had our share of opportunities to do so but could not. This is a short series and we will have less amount of time to bounce back. We will try to play well in the series. We have done well in patches here (in SA). This will give us confidence that we can do well in South African conditions,” said Dravid.
On players moving on from the heartbreak of World Cup loss, Dravid said that the team has moved on since it is needed, as these Test matches will give them a chance to qualify for the ICC World Test Championship final in 2025.
“It was a disappointment (WC loss) but you have to move on since there was an important series coming up. All these matches count towards our chances of qualifying for another ICC event final in 2025. We do not have much time to stay down all the time. You have to pick yourself up. Guys have done that really well. They are all in a great spirits and excited to play in this series. It is a great place to play Test cricket,” said Dravid.
“Players do not need motivation to play for India. I do not need to motivate them either. My job is to give them the right environment, make sure they practice well, and make sure we follow the right processes. We should tick all the boxes mentally, physically and tactically so that we give ourselves the best chance to succeed,” he added.
Dravid said that the bouncy wickets and help for seamers on these surfaces make batting challenging and whoever out bats the other, wins the series.
“A big challenge is, as of late, the wickets are bouncy, they have a lot of seam. It makes batting difficult. Wickets are result-oriented. You can go backwards if you lose even one session. Even if you lose a session, you should be able to control the fall of wickets, fight back and develop partnerships. Extra 40-50 runs are needed here, since all 20 wickets fall here. Whichever team bats better, will win the series,” said Dravid.
“It has been one of the toughest countries statistically. But we have put in some good performances. It is not impossible to do well here. The bounce here tends to be more variable than in other places, with not much swing as much as England, and pace as much as Australia. It has been a challenging place for Indian batters, but we have put on some fine performances. We have got the quality and experience to do well this time,” he added.
Dravid said that the series serves as a nice opportunity for KL Rahul to move into his role as a wicketkeeper-batter in Test cricket as well following good performances in ODIs.
“It is an exciting challenge (to keep wickets) and an opportunity for him to do something different. With Ishan Kishan not being around. We have had discussions with KL Rahul. He is confident and keen to give it a chance. He has done so in ODIs really well, which is a tough task in itself. Over the last five-to-six months, he has done a lot of keeping. He has prepared really well. There is going to be more pace bowling than spin bowling here, it will ease him into that role,” said Dravid.
On whether Team India will play a more positive brand of cricket in the series, Dravid said that though players are encouraged to play with freedom, there has to be a balance between expression and making smart decisions.
“We encourage players to play the way they feel comfortable in. But also, they have to keep tactics and conditions in mind that come with playing in South Africa. There has to be a balance between expressing yourself and making smart decisions,” he said.
Talking about the possibility of rain on day one of the match, Dravid said that the team has enough depth and balance to react to any situation.
“We will see what the wicket looks like, what the weather will be like on the morning of the match. When you come to play, you look at what is above you and below you. We will take the decision accordingly. We have the balance and depth needed. We can play four seamers, three seamers and two spinners and react according to the weather. We look at the forecast, it keeps changing a lot too,” he added.
India’s squad for Tests: Rohit Sharma (C), Shubman Gill, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Ishan Kishan (wk), KL Rahul (Wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Mohd. Siraj, Mukesh Kumar, Mohd. Shami*, Jasprit Bumrah (VC), Prasidh Krishna.
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