Calcutta: Sunil Gavaskar feels the India batsmen will need an extra amount of determination to force a draw in the second Test in Durban.
Having conceded a 166-run lead, the visitors were 68 for two when bad light forced early stumps on the penultimate day. Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli were batting at the close.
“The weather has a huge role. But I am not having good feelings about India... It is going to be the last day of India’s tour. The concentration and the determination might not be at the same level when they started off. India are, as of now, on the back foot.
“But they have to summon that extra amount of concentration from within themselves… That extra amount of determination... If they manage to do that, they will be able to survive. If they don’t, it will be a South Africa victory that looked unlikely at the end of Day I when India were 181 for one,” the former India captain told a TV channel.
Gavaskar praised the application and temperament of the Indian batsmen. “The application shown by the Indian batsmen was really very good. Shikhar Dhawan might not have got many runs, but the way he stuck around was really remarkable. He had to curb his natural instincts.
“Pujara has been very patient. Of course, he has done so in the past and a lot will depend on how he handles the first hour of play on Monday. Pujara and Kohli’s batting will be very crucial for India if they have to come out of this Test series unscathed,” said Gavaskar.
He felt India should have taken the second new ball a little early. India finally took the new ball after 147 overs.
“The South Africa innings was a bit slow. But I think the Indian bowlers bowled well, too. Moreover, I think there was confusion among the South African players about when to up the ante. They were not in a hurry to score runs till lunch. It is after the lunch that they started to play their shots and that put India on the back foot.
“If India had taken the second new ball early in the first session when Jacques Kallis and Dale Steyn were batting, India could have counter attacked as well and, South Africa perhaps, wouldn't have managed to take a lead of more than a hundred runs,” he felt.
“As far as the issue of delaying the second new ball is concerned, I think yesterday (Saturday) it was understandable. There was nothing in the pitch, the bowlers were tired… But what happens when you have a half-an-hour early start to make up for the lost overs is that you find moisture underneath the surface. You have to cash in on it.
“But Mahendra Singh Dhoni didn’t take the new ball then… In fact, he didn’t take the new ball for almost half of the first session, by when both the batsmen — Kallis and Steyn — were all set. They became immovable and then Dhoni thought of doing something different.
“I think Dhoni was more interested in slowing the South African batsmen down rather than taking wickets… That’s what perhaps was the idea behind sticking to the fast bowlers.”
Gavaskar supported Jacques Kallis’ decision to retire after this Test.
“I think Kallis’ was a well thought out decision. Had there been a third Test in Cape Town, which is his hometown, I am sure he would have liked to retire there. Neither did he wait for the South Africa versus Australia series.
“He probably had made up his mind that this is it. Because in the last 8-9 Test matches before this, he didn’t get enough runs. He didn’t get any century, not even fifties. That, probably, had been playing on his mind.
“Moreover, there had been some comment in the South African press after his first ball dismissal at Wanderers that he should now only be playing limited-overs cricket etc... That might just have given him the nudge to take the decision to retire.
“Kallis has been a patient batsman, and patient batsmen don’t always get the recognition that stroke players do. If you look at Tendulkar and Ponting, they were terrific stroke players, whereas Kallis has always been an accumulator. He has always been in the school of the old-fashion Test match batting.
“But, Kallis was never a boring batsman… Because what looks boring to the common man is something very useful to the dressing room. The solidity that he brings to the crease inspires the other stroke players around him to go for their shots.
India fielding coach Trevor Penney is taking a rather pragmatic approach. “We would try and go session by session. Our batters know what their roles are… They have studied the South African bowlers and played against them a lot. So, we need to dig deep and fight the day out,” said Penney at a press conference in Durban.
“We have played good cricket over the last couple of weeks and the team is very upbeat about the possibility to try and bat out the final day.”
Dhawan was dismissed after having done the good work. After having batted for 120 minutes for his 19 off 87 balls, the opener fell to Robin Peterson, half an hour before the close. He was caught by Faf du Plessis, the fielder pulling off a stunning catch at short mid-wicket. Expectedly, he was devastated.
“Like all other batsmen, he wasn’t very happy. At that particular stage he wasn’t very happy because the light was poor and they could have come off at any stage. I think he was pretty disappointed.”
On the reason for India delaying in taking the new ball, Penney said: “It is a bit more variable with the old ball. We just wanted to test the reverse swing as well… That was the main reason for delaying the new ball,” he said.