After suffering a defeat in the first two Tests against South Africa, India have bounced back strongly in the overseas tour, beating their opponents in the dangerous Wanderers wicket in the third Test, and then going on to win the first ODI by 6 wickets. India coach Ravi Shastri, in an interview to Times of India, questioned the critics and explained the reasons behind the decisions made by the team management that were questioned earlier.
Speaking on the decision to play Rohit Sharma instead of Ajinkya Rahane in Cape Town and Centurion, Shastri said that the former had a better average than the latter in 2017. “Right from the beginning, there was no doubt in the mind of the team management that Rohit was the batsman in form while Ajinkya was struggling, not just on the field but in the nets too. Rohit was averaging more than 200 in Tests and had scored around 1200-odd runs in ODIs. So, what does the team tell him? Your runs don’t matter because that’s how it works?,” Shastri said.
The former Indian allrounder added that the team decision was made on the performance by the two batsmen in 2017. “Performances count and that makes this whole talking point a no-brainer. We all know what Ajinkya is capable of, but before coming here, he was averaging about 30 all through 2017,” he said.
Shastri also went on to speak about Jasprit Bumrah’s debut in Tests against South Africa and said the decision was proved correct after he took a fifer in Johannesburg. “Bumrah was our surprise package coming here and did it work? Of course. Tell me the last time a bowler has delivered so confidently on debut and has been learning so quickly. He was among the most consistent. In Cape Town, he bowled us back into the Test from where we could have won. In Johannesburg, he was simply intimidating,” Shastri said.
“People want to say a lot of things, but where are these people now?” he added.
India had earlier received criticism for sitting out in-form seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar in place for Ishant Sharma in Centurion. Shastri explained the decision was taken as per the wicket which would have assisted the latter. “We knew Bhuvi had to be played at the Wanderers and in fact, given the Centurion wicket – it had nothing for pace bowlers, leave alone swing – we knew Bhuvi would be fresh for the third Test. Ishant bowled beautifully in the first innings at Centurion, he got us both, AB & Faf and what a tireless effort it’s been from him,” he said.
The cricketer-turned-commentator-turned coach further added the team set up was taken on the basis of net practice sessions and hence Rahane was brought back into the side. “That’s why I’m saying, where are the experts now? What chopping and changing? Sometime during the Centurion Test, Ajinkya was getting back into his rhythm. He was knocking well in the nets and Rohit was struggling, so we decided to do whatever looked better at that point in time and Ajinkya was in the eleven. And he scored at the Wanderers,” Shastri said.
India defeated South Africa in the first ODI in Durban on Friday by 5 wickets with skipper Virat Kohli scoring his 33rd ODI century and Rahane playing a crucial 78-run innings.