India vs South Africa: Desperate South Africa train to hit out against India spinners
During South Africa’s net session ahead of the second Test starting at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium, the plastic seats in the stands at the Pavilion End took a pounding. Time and again, balls landed on them making a loud noise. Their practice session on Wednesday resembled more nets for a Twenty20 game than a five-day contest. The batsmen’s focus was as much on going for their shots as on sound defensive play with soft hands.
The template to tackle spinners was set by Rohit Sharma and Mayank Agarwal in the first Test in Visakhapatnam with their big hitting—using their feet to loft them out of the park, slogging them over midwicket, pulling or sweeping. The Indian openers smashed six sixes each in the first innings, and Rohit hit seven more in the second to break the all-time record with total 13 sixes. Buoyed by a similar approach from their own opener, Dean Elgar, who hit four sixes in his hundred, the rest of the South Africa batsmen are looking to follow the template to tackle the threat posed by spinners R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.
South Africa captain Faf du Plessis said a positive approach is the way to go in the subcontinent. “The first innings for me was possibly the difference with us from 2015 (tour of India). You try and survive on Indian spinning conditions and with that you can become too defensive and allow the opposition to be on top the whole time. There needs to be a good combination of positive play, element of taking risks at some stage of the game to transfer the pressure on to the bowling team. And the record speaks for themselves; especially on the spin bowling front, the two of them (Ashwin and Jadeja) have done really well in India, so you’ve to try and put some pressure back on them. Otherwise, they’ll just bowl good balls all day long and one of those will have your name on it. The balance between attack and defence is important in the subcontinent.”
During their practice session, South Africa opener Aiden Markram was the classiest and hit the longest, sending the ball into the upper tiers. Temba Bavuma spent a lot of time working on his power hits on the leg side, both over the midwicket arc and then a bit squarer. With Faf getting a half-century and Quinton de Kock hitting a flurry of boundaries on way to a hundred, South Africa gave a strong reply in the first innings with a total of 431.
Speaking about South Africa’s approach, India skipper Virat Kohli said: “Look, how they played in the first innings was very good. You have to be positive when the wickets are nice and easy to bat on. You have to try and get as many runs as possible and that’s exactly what they did.
“We are going to be put under pressure even though we are playing at home. It’s about how we come back into the game and put double the pressure on the opposition again and tell them ‘let’s see if that can be executed again’. That’s basically what Test cricket is, you’ve got to come back in the second innings and do the job. It doesn’t end in one innings. The approach was quite expected.”