Chappell?s game of loss and gains

The coach admits that India's new-kids-on-the-blocks will face the biggest test of the careers in the coming months, writes Kadambari Murali.

india Updated: Nov 18, 2006 21:25 IST

By Thursday night, Indian coach Greg Chappell looked like he had recovered from his bout of food poisoning but whether he was shocked into getting better after watching India go down by 37 runs to a inspired South Africa A side is yet unknown. He might have been, even given the several troughs that his team has been meandering through these past few months, this was a new low.

Still, the Indian coach seemed to be holding onto the calm he showed as he got off the plane in Johannesburg, and it can only be hoped that he stays this way through what promises to be a frenzied trip. However, he did admit that India's new-kids-on-the-blocks would probably face the biggest test of the careers over these coming months.

He also agreed that the loss in the practice game could have a bearing on their psyche.

“Everything will depend on how they recover and go forward,” said Chappell.

“This is the first time in such conditions for many of them, and the real test is ahead of them. South Africa will certainly test them, and it is how they respond that will make the difference. It's when you get embarrassed and are forced to cope that you get better. It is these situations that can make you, and coping is not something you can teach anyone, it is just something you learn, if you can.”

And that will probably be what someone like Suresh Raina, young and under fire for his run of poor form, would have to do. Chappell said again that it all came down to getting through the bad times, something that most international cricketers had to do at some stage. “It can be a difficult process, gaining experience,” he said.

“For Suresh, these are probably second year blues, he began well last year and is finding it tough. Teams have had a look at him, and are attacking him differently. He is obviously under tremendous pressure and it is tough but he needs to enjoy the pressure and get through it.”

He said while it was “not easy to get off a plane and play a match in strange conditions on a quick track where the ball is bouncing,” he said the others could take heart from the way the Indian skipper played.

“Rahul Dravid was outstanding today” he said. “Rahul recognises tough periods and is challenged by them and most importantly, he gets through them.

“It doesn't always look good when someone is coping with a tough phase, it can look as uncomfortable as it feels but if you can get through them, that's what is important. It comes with experience and Rahul has learnt those lessons as well as anyone ever has in international cricket.”

Both Zaheer Khan and Anil Kumble, in particular, came in for praise. “It was a good performance from both of them, a good start to the tour. They are both here because they are experienced players, and that showed today. Kumble is the consummate professional, he has done everything that has been asked of him and more. He always bowls and plays with a youthful enthusiasm that belies the number of years he has spent on the cricket field.”

And that lack of experience showed probably in how Munaf Patel and S Sreesanth were taken apart while bowling at the death, though Chappell said it was a learning experience too.

“You might call it disappointing, but we gave a couple of guys an opportunity to bowl at the death, something they haven't had before. It was perhaps a painful initiation to bowl at the death, but that is how you get to learn.”

And finally, he said he had to look at the positives. “Today was a good work-out, a very competitive game against a very competitive side on a lively wicket. It was a perfect start in the sense that it gave an insight into what to expect on this tour,” said Chappell.

“We are disappointed we didn't win but we are not the first team to lose a practice match at the start of a tour. We have all had to do some adjusting and we haven't yet; we didn't win today, yes, but the first one-dayer is on Sunday, and we need to prepare and get ready for it.”

First Published: Nov 17, 2006 23:15 IST