If preparation is everything, then results can be controlled and influenced. The biggest takeaway from watching the South Africa camp is their sincerity and planning.
The visitors have done every bit to tick the key boxes as far as assessing the conditions of the country they are touring — dew, shirtfront batting pitches, low bounce or turning pitches.
From the time the series started in Dharamsala, not a single training day has passed without specific bowling practice. First, it was with the wet ball, to prepare for dew during matches. South Africa worked in the nets while India only kept talking about how to bowl when dew becomes an issue. In the Kanpur ODI, the collective wisdom of three key seniors— Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis and captain AB de Villiers— was that young Kagiso Rabada had to fall back on what he has been doing with bowling coach Charl Langevelt, that is to bowl back of the length, not yorker. It is not that Rabada didn’t practice yorkers, but the energy with which their seamers are bowling a fair number of specific deliveries— back of the length, yorkers, slower ones and slow bouncers— in the nets is paying off.
Langeveldt places cones and football-size balls to mark areas for the top line bowlers and insists on their bowling a particular type of delivery. The Kanpur ODI demanded back of the length, and the South Africa seamers recognised it.
“If we assess the conditions quickly enough, it allows us to change our strategy accordingly. We don’t stick to one element at the death by only bowling yorkers. I always say to the players that the bowler who adapts the fastest will be the most successful on the day. There will be games where we will be required to bowl a few more yorkers so when we train we focus on different deliveries. We mix it up, you might have a wicket that doesn’t suit back-of-a-length bowling so you need to adapt,” Langeveldt added.
The reality of playing fierce cricket in India has already dawned on South Africa pacers. “In India, you are going to get hit for runs. If you can control the last five overs or the first 10, that’s when you normally win the games,” he said.