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Ajinkya Rahane is the man who can steady the ship for India vs South Africa: Allan Donald

South Africa cricket team will test Indian cricket team in technique and extra pace during the Freedom Series, says Allan Donald, who feels Ajinkya Rahane could solidify the batting line-up for Virat Kohli.

cricket Updated: Jan 11, 2018 09:17 IST
Somshuvra Laha
Somshuvra Laha
Hindustan Times,
South Africa vs India,SA vs IND,Freedom Series
Allan Donald says South Africa cricket team was surprised to see Ajinkya Rahane sitting on the bench for the first Freedom Series Test vs Indian cricket team in Cape Town. (Getty Images)

Legendary South Africa cricket team fast bowler Allan Donald, one of the finest ever, has now been mentor to pacers in five different national teams as well as several counties and franchises. Imbibing different cultures as a travelling coach, Donald’s life is still very much about fast bowling. He spoke about the recently concluded Newlands Test, Dale Steyn’s injury and why he thinks Virat Kohli has ushered in a fitness revolution in the Indian cricket team.


Q: Do you agree India blew away their best chance to win in this series at Newlands?

When I saw them take eight wickets in that morning session, I thought India were in with a massive chance. Yes, possibly, that was their biggest chance to win. But I think shot making in Johannesburg and Pretoria will be much better. This wicket really surprised me on Day 1.

There was more grass and more moisture than I have seen. Pretoria, I think, the scoring rate is much higher and the guys can play their shots. Don’t get me wrong but I don’t think South Africa will get it flat. It won’t be flat. There will be carry and there will be pace. I don’t think India must be disheartened with what happened in Newlands.

Q: You must be feeling bad for Dale Steyn after this recent freak injury?

Obviously, I’m gutted for him that he is injured again. Pretty horrendous injury, really. He was so close to a massive milestone in his career, being pretty much the senior wicket-taker in South Africa’s bowling history. I have seen him before, I have seen him in training.

He’s been in extremely good form, he’s worked really hard. Four to six weeks is a long time and he’s got to start again. South Africa will miss him but they have some really good backup in Chris Morris and others.

Q: Looking at the Newlands Test it seemed South Africa bowlers have a lot more clarity about their roles. Don’t you think so?

Definitely. You could clearly see that. Vernon’s the man bowling stump-to-stump all day. If there’s anything in the wicket, he will expose it. It’s clear to me they have told Kagiso Rabada your role is to bowl fast, be aggressive. And the same with Morne Morkel, you know. What Chris Morris brings to the table is that again he is 145 km/hr. So, yeah, there is a lot of clarity in what they have to do and that showed in this Test match for sure.

Q: What did you make of the Indian bowling?

I think it’s an amazing bowling lineup. They have passion, control, they are very aggressive and that was a spirited bowling performance. That positivity can be taken to the next Test match. Yes, they are different in pace but they have a lot of skill. South Africa’s bowling attack is based on pace with the exception of Philander while the Indian bowling attack has got incredible variety. If South Africa keep preparing wickets like this, it will bring the two teams closer. That’s what happened yesterday. India came out with an amazing performance. I think they will take a lot of that moving into Pretoria and Johannesburg where the wickets will definitely be faster, bouncier and it will definitely go a little sideways as well.

Q: Were you surprised by Jasprit Bumrah’s selection?

Not really. I can see why he was selected. He’s very reliable, he’s very skillful, he’s got pace. I thought he had a tremendous first Test. It looks like he belongs in that environment and not just being labelled in T20. I think it’s good to see him in the Test arena. I think he’s there to stay for a long time.

Q: What is the best way to cope with the South African pacers in Centurion and Johannesburg?

My experience against India is to expose their technique. In home conditions, most Indians are very good back-foot players and also very good players with a great hand. In India, they get away with that because the ball doesn’t move much. I think in South Africa, technique always gets exposed. I think South Africa is going to test India in technique and extra pace. That’s the one thing South Africa have over what India have.

And that is why Sachin Tendulkar was such a wonderful player here, and also Mohammed Azharuddin because they played the ball so late. They left the ball really well. Once they got themselves in, they made hay. It was attractive to watch them and it was hard to get them out. Sachin was so wonderful because he adjusted his technique so brilliantly wherever he went. That’s what separated him from the others. That’s what India have to be smart about. They have to leave balls very well for a long period.

Q: Do you think KL Rahul should have played instead of Shikhar Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane in place of Rohit Sharma?

I consider Shikhar Dhawan to be a really aggressive player. If they make that change, South Africa will believe ‘right, that’s good for us’. Dhawan is a world-class player. He is a hard man to bowl to because he makes you change the length because he is so attacking. I really think it’s harsh to keep Rahane out. Last time he was here he had a great tour. I think for me, Rahane is the man who can steady the ship. He is a rock-solid guy and a good head on his shoulders. From my point of view, if there is a change in the top, South Africa will think ‘okay, good we have KL Rahul instead of Shikhar Dhawan’ who is of aggressive nature. I would definitely continue with Shikhar. Rohit Sharma is coming to South Africa in serious form. He played a real sloppy shot to get out. He is gifted technically. South Africa are just going to keep peppering him. I think the follow-up deliveries bowled to him have been spot on. Technically, South Africa have really exposed Rohit but again he is a world-class player. In my opinion, it would be foolish now to make changes. That’s the selectors’ decision again. But again, South Africans see Rahane sitting on the bench and carrying drinks and they would say ‘wow’. They would rather have that, you know. He’s an absolutely world-class player.

Q: For a long time, most subcontinent cricketers were not great athletes. Do you think India is now leading that change?

There’s no doubt that the IPL has helped Indian cricket and brought through so many young cricketers. I’m not surprised where they are now. I have to say Virat Kohli has now brought a huge fitness culture in the team which I haven’t seen for a very long time. He’s brought an aggressive streak.

He’s brought fitness and a really tough regime you have to live with. And that you can only do when you have a captain like Kohli who leads from the front. We and Hansie did that for many years. And, trust me, we were the fittest team in the world because he kept that bar so high for us that we knew that if we have to win home and away we have to be fitter at the end of the season than what we were at the start. That’s exactly what Virat is doing. And, Ravi Shastri as well. I haven’t heard an Indian coach say ‘we have to win away from home’. They want to be defined as a team that can win away from home. They have to work harder. We judge ourselves on winning in India and Pakistan, not to mention other countries. For India to come here, that’s where they need to set the bar.

First Published: Jan 11, 2018 09:11 IST

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