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Is Virat Kohli & Co. paying the price for no expert consultation in South Africa?

India may have missed a big trick by not seeking a former South African cricketer as consultant for the ongoing Test series

cricket Updated: Jan 20, 2018 20:45 IST
Somshuvra Laha
Somshuvra Laha
Hindustan Times, Johannesburg
India vs South Africa,South Africa vs India,Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli-led Indian cricket team has conceded a 2-0 lead to South Africa in the ongoing Test series.(AFP)

Touring a country outside the subcontinent presents its own set of problems. The maximum a willing host may provide are a few practice games and local bowlers at every Test venue. India though were bold enough to opt out of the only practice game in Paarl ahead of the South Africa series and focus on playing among themselves instead. As the top Test nation, they couldn’t be faulted for believing in their ability to adapt quickly, though the decision is now being questioned in the wake of their 2-0 loss.

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But did India miss a bigger trick by not seeking a former South African cricketer as consultant for this series? With a number of former South Africa players available and some of the more prominent faces commentating in this series, it’s difficult to believe India wouldn’t have found someone if they had looked for.

The concept isn’t new. The idea of hiring consultants on a short-term basis has been embraced more by teams outside Asia. Teams like Australia have explored this option ahead of every tour though the results haven’t gone their way often. Like when they had appointed Muttiah Muralitharan as spin consultant for their tour of Sri Lanka in 2016. Sri Lanka went to win all three Tests by big margins but Australia hadn’t given up on the idea.

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When it was time for the India series, not only did Australia hire Monty Panesar --- who had wrecked havoc for England in the 2012 tour of India --- but also got on board S Sriram as spin consultant. India did win the series 2-1 but till the third Test, Australia had done well to hold them 1-1. Before that series, India hosted England who had brought along Saqlain Mushtaq to guide their spinners.

Asian teams, in comparison, haven’t explored this idea much. Last year, Sri Lanka had appointed Allan Donald as bowling consultant during the Champions Trophy but apart from that, there haven’t been many instances of foreigners being assigned specific roles ahead of major tours. Foreign coaches have flocked to the Indian Premier League but when it comes to national duty, the BCCI hasn’t been open to giving even a part-time role to one of them.

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Not that India don’t have specific overseas consultants already. Zaheer Khan and Rahul Dravid were signed as bowling mentor and batting consultant but while Dravid is in New Zealand with the U-19 team, it’s not known why Zaheer didn’t fly with the team. Had there been a South African consultant, India could have prepared better for the Cape Town Test and maybe even got their selection right after a analysing a very unique Centurion pitch. Moreover, having a former player helps in second-guessing what might be happening in the South Africa dressing room.

In the context of such a big series, even the smallest information or insight helps but India have been largely on their own in this tour. Now, in the wake of a disappointing series loss to South Africa, only they know how to pick themselves up and make a mark in the last Test.

First Published: Jan 20, 2018 20:44 IST