South Africa’s decision to play for a draw in the closing stages of Day Five in the opening Test at Johannesburg has evoked emphatic reactions.
Set a world record victory target of 458, South Africa finished eight runs short at 450 for seven. However, Indian experts were divided over Graeme Smith & Co’s decision to abort the chase.
While former captain Ajit Wadekar and erstwhile coach S Madan Lal felt South Africa should have gone for the win, Anshuman Gaekwad said the Proteas did the right thing by aiming for a draw.
Wadekar said: “Being the No 1 Test team, South Africa should have gone for the kill. You had three wickets in hand and just needed 16 runs off 18 balls at one point of time which was quite possible. I think losing the No 1 spot may have played on the team management’s mind. If they had lost this Test and then the series, their points would have decreased in the world ranking.”
Madan slams SA
Madan Lal said he was shocked to see South Africa play for a draw. “They should have taken a chance. It was worth taking. After all, you were chasing a world record target. They could have made history. It was shocking that they chose to draw the game after coming so close to the target.
“That is why they are called ‘chokers.’ They do not know how to win games from crucial positions. They must learn to do that. The batsmen could have applied themselves better,” said the former medium-pacer, who was part of India’s 1983 World Cup-winning team.
The hosts turned the game with Faf du Plessis (134) and ABde Villiers (103) hitting centuries. But once Du Plessis was run out, courtesy a direct hit from Ajinkya Rahane, the South Africans, who needed 20 off four overs, decided to play it safe.Gaekwad said ‘overcautious’ South Africa did the right thing to draw the game. “I think it was a sensible decision by South Africa to play for a draw. Why take undue risks? Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn was the last batting pair. They did not think Morne Morkel would have stayed at the wicket even for an over after the ankle injury. They could not rely on (last man) Imran Tahir as well. Had this been a five-match series, it would have made sense to take a risk. But, if you have just one match remaining in the series, it was better to settle for a draw and take your chances in the last match,” said the former India coach.
Former India skipper Nari Contractor took a neutral stance. “See, the situation was such that anything could have happened. Had they lost another wicket, South Africa would have been in danger of losing the Test. There is nothing right or wrong about the decision. That run-out (of Du Plessis) was vital and it changed the complexion of the game. Had they not lost that wicket, I am sure South Africa would have won,” said Contractor.