Despite falling to off-spinner Ravichandran twice in two T20s, SA coach Domingo dismisses the suggestion that SA ODI skipper is struggling against the Indian tweaker
Kolkata: The T20 series done and dusted, it’s time to move on to cricket’s traditional tracks.
Team India, picking up the pieces and positives from a disappointing launch to what is a lengthy joust with the South Africans, will want to believe they are entering their ‘comfort zone’ — the 50-50 format — even as the visitors brace themselves for a backlash. In addition to belief in their abilities as an ODI unit, the hosts will have taken note of chinks in the Proteas’ armour — none potentially more debilitating than a vulnerability to quality spin.
India’s R Ashwin celebrates the wicket of AB de Villiers during the second T20 against SA on Monday. Pic/AFP
It’s a drawback that has found symbolism in the manner in which AB de Villiers, arguably the best batsman in the world today, has floundered and fallen to Ravichandran Ashwin. But, then, the South Africans are not about to agree and thereby hand a psychological edge to the opponents.
“He got 51 off 32 in the first game and 19 (off 21) in the second; I wouldn’t say he’s having a problem with Ashwin,” said Russell Domingo, dismissing the suggestion at a media interaction soon after the final match was washed away at the Eden Gardens on Thursday to leave the Proteas 2-0 winners of the series.
“Ashwin got him out twice but that’s part of the game. I think ‘AB’ has played him well,” added the South Africa coach, conveniently overlooking the manner of the two dismissals.
Foxed by flight in Dharamsala and failing to read a straighter one for his Cuttack ouster, De Villiers has surely given away ground to Ashwin, against whom he managed just 16 from 16 deliveries. To add credence to this belief, Harbhajan Singh, who played only the second match, too kept De Villiers in check (4 off 7).
In the ODIs, which begins in Kanpur on Sunday, it will be up to Axar Patel and Amit Mishra to step up and be the good foil to Ashwin, whose dominance has extended to the rest of the South African top-order, including the in-form JP Duminy (10 off 11).
On his first visit to India, Domingo is already feeling the heat of a long tour of the country. The wickets and the conditions, the passionate support for the home team, the constant scrutiny from the media and public, an overdose of cricket on television… the 41-year-old said “keeping focus amidst all this is our main goal”. “We invest in the team; spend time together as a unit. We try to enjoy the environment and train hard,” said the coach when asked how the visitors cope with it all.
Duminy pointed out that it was crucial they drew first blood on a lengthy tour (at 72 days, during which they visit 12 cities, it is the Proteas’ longest trip to India). “It can get quite painful if you start off such a long tour in the wrong fashion,” he said, making a special mention of the bowling unit.
“The discipline we showed within our bowling department, that’s going to be a big tick for us in the T20 format. Our focus is now on Kanpur, and hopefully we can start well in the ODI series as well.”
The Proteas have played very little cricket before this tour, and the 31-year-old southpaw will tell you it’s just as well. "Sometimes that can be a good thing for you; just press the refresh button and get away from the game,” he said.