India's Virat Kohli (R) speaks with coach Rahul Dravid (C). Photo: AFP
India's Virat Kohli (R) speaks with coach Rahul Dravid (C). Photo: AFP

’I can’t exactly put a finger on the reason’ - even Rahul Dravid can't explain why India hasn’t lost at the Wanderers

By Stuart Hess Time of article published Jan 2, 2022

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Johannesburg - Even Rahul Dravid can’t explain why India has such a good record at the Wanderers, a venue where conditions aren’t familiar to what Indian players grow up in at home.

Currently coach of the Indian men’s team, Dravid was the first Indian captain to lead a side from that country to a Test win in South Africa, doing so at the Wanderers in 2006. In five Tests at the ‘Bullring’ India, quite incredibly, are unbeaten, winning there twice, while there should have been a third triumph there, were it not for rain in 1997.

“We’ve done well, even from the time that I played here,” Dravid said on Sunday.

“For some reason, the boys have always enjoyed playing at the Wanderers. It’s a quicker pitch, but the bounce maybe hasn’t been as much as at Centurion in the past. It is a strange one, it’s one of those things, I can’t exactly put a finger on the reason. It may be a familiarity with the city, the ground…for some reason we’ve always done well there and it is hard to figure out why, but I really hope we continue that now.”

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If India do win at Wanderers in the second Test, which starts on Monday, it will be a historic achievement, the first series win by an Indian side in South Africa.

“It is a challenging wicket. One of things you do know when you go into a game at the Wanderers is that generally, if the weather holds over five days, you do expect a result there,” Dravid remarked.

“It is one of the exciting aspects of being in contests like we’ve had there, is that you know there will be a result and hopefully that result goes your way and for that you need to play well.”

Having captained the 2006/07 Indian team which was 1-0 up in that three match series, but went on to lose the next two matches, Dravid is aware of not looking too far ahead.

“The boys came up to me after the Centurion game and said that in the past when they’ve gone one up in a series, they haven’t always responded well in the next game. It’s nice that those kinds of conversations started among the boys, because then it becomes really easy from a coaching perspective, you know the boys are aware of these things, it’s front and centre in their own minds.”

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“Just listening to the conversations straight after the first game, and hearing the focus that there was, is quite heartening as a coach,” said Dravid.

He explained it would mean a lot for him as a coach to oversee a series win in South Africa, but that outcome, should it occur, wouldn’t be his. “As a coach, our role is really to support and help the team, and it is really their success.”

“However we are really conscious of the fact that we’ve been 1-0 up before in these conditions and there is no guarantee that we will win this Test series.

“I expect South Africa to bounce back as they usually do. We have the capability, the confidence and the team to do it, but we need to execute the skills in the next five days,” David remarked.

India’s Wanderers wonder

November 1992

DRAW: SA 292 and 252; India 227 and 141/4

A grim hard fought battle in the first series between the two teams. India Looked at have the upper hand initially when SA were 26/4 on the first morning. McMillan and Rhodes rescued the hosts and got them to a solid first innings total. Tendulkar’s 111, kept India in touch, while Kumble’s 6/53 in SA’s second innings meant the home team didn’t dominate the second half of the match

January 1997

DRAW: India 410 and 266/8 decl.; SA 321 and 228/8

Dravid’s nine-hour vigil in which he made 148 gave India the advantage, after which Srinath’s 5/104, ensured a crucial 90-run lead. DRavid made 81 in the second innings as India set SA 356 to win. The hosts were saved by an unbeaten 123 from Cullinan and heavy rain, which helped force a draw.

December 2006

India won by 123 runs: India 249 and 236; SA 84 and 278

Ganguly’s half century anchored India’s first innings. Although a mediocre total, it was made to look gargantuan as SA were caught cold by Sreesanth’s exuberance with the young fast bowler taking 5/40. Laxman made 73 as India set South an impossible 402 to win. Zaheer Khan, Sreesanth and Kumble all claimed three wickets as India claimed their first win on SA soil, leaving captain Dravid, drenched in beer afterwards.

December 2013

Draw: India 280 and 421; SA 244 and 450/7

Kohli’s wonder 119, was the mainstay of India’s first innings, after which an Ishant Sharma burst from the Golf Course, crushed SA’s middle order batting. It became a batting exhibition thereafter; Pujara made 153 and Kohli missed out on a second century by four runs. South Africa’s initial salvaging job thanks to Du Plessis’s 130 turned into a chase for victory with De Villiers’ 103, with wickets tumbling late, the hosts chose to halt the pursuit and settle for the draw.

January 2018

Indian won by 63 runs: India 187 and 247; SA 194 and 177

On a spicy, and later to be declared dangerous pitch, India were grateful to half centuries from Kohli and Pujara to give them a competitive first innings total. SA didn’t fare much better with Amla’s 61 the top score, as Bumrah claimed 5/54. Rahane made a superb 48 in the second innings as India set SA 241 to win. A 119-run second wicket partnership between Elgar and Amla seemd to be setting SA up for victory, but once the latter was out, the rest of the home team’s batting couldn’t cope with the surface and India bowling, with Shami taking 5/28.

@shockerhess

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