'Ravi Shastri summoned Bhuvneshwar, Bumrah, Shami, Hardik and thundered 'What's this rubbish?'': Ex-India coach
India's campaign was to start at the Newlands Cricket Stadium, but after a passage of play, Ravi Shastri, the then-India coach was furious at the team's performance, the bowlers more so.
One of the biggest takeaways during Ravi Shastri's tenure as India head coach was that he was instrumental in putting together a brilliant pace attack. Stressing on the importance to win matches away from home, for which picking 20 wickets in a Test match was a must, Shastri and former captain Virat Kohli reformed India's fast-bowling line-up. Mohammed Shami overcame fitness woes to turn into a match-winner, while Jasprit Bumrah was unleashed. Ishant Sharma finally became the bowler that everyone saw the shades of during his spell to Ricky Ponting all those years ago and Umesh Yadav was more menacing than ever. Add to that the emergence of Mohammed Siraj and India's pace bowling became a force to reckon win. That India won back-to-back series in Australia and drew in England had a lot to do with their five-pronged pace attack.
What started as a promise had turned into a revolution by 2018. It was the year when Bumrah made his Test debut as India were seeking a Test series win in South Africa. India's campaign was to start at the Newlands Cricket Stadium, but after a passage of play, Shastri, the then-India coach was furious at the team's performance, the bowlers more so, recalls R Sridhar in his book 'Coaching Beyond: My time with the Indian team'.
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"We were in South Africa in early 2018, for the first Test in Cape Town. Within half an hour of the start of the game, Bhuvneshwar reduced them to 12/3, dismissing Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram and Hashim Amla. Then we bowled like millionaires and they ended up making 286. That evening, Ravi summoned the pace attack (Bhuvi, Shami, Bumrah and Hardik) and thundered, 'What's this rubbish? I have seen so much driving in the middle that I am sick of it. From this point on, whatever driving happens must be only on the road. No bloody half-volleys, get stuck into them'," Sridhar, the former fielding coach wrote.
After Bhuvneshwar's early three-wicket burst, South Africa rode on half-centuries from AB de Villiers and captain Faf du Plessis. But as it turned out, Shastri's warning worked like a charm. Despite conceding a decent lead, India shot South Africa out for 130 in the second innings, and although Kohli's men lost the Test by 72 runs, in the long run, it was the beginning of something special for Indian cricket. Shastri had narrated the incident in his own words back in 2021, matching the exact details pointed out by Sridhar.
"In the first innings, we had a reasonable Day 1. We picked up three wickets, and then bowled a lot of nonsense after lunch. South Africa recovered and reached 200, in spite of what we dished out. Next morning, we pulled the bowlers in and in no uncertain terms told them 'Keep your driving license at home'. I said I don't want to see a ball pitched up under the nose," he had said on the show 'Bold and Brave: The Shastri Way' on Star Sports.
"It has to be a different length; you've got to get a little bit shorter and use the bounce as opposed to Indian conditions where you might be a little fuller. And after that, the bowling attack was different. We rolled over South Africa for 130 in the second innings. Then did reasonably well on a good strip at Centurion and they bowled out South Africa in Johannesburg twice."
India went on to lost the Cape Town and Centurion Tests to concede the series but secured a memorable 63-run win at the Wanders. Despite putting up 187 and 247 on the board, the bowling unit came together and skittled the hosts for 194 and 177.