JOHANNESBURG – Some of his teammates may not have shown it in Pune, but Kagiso Rabada insists that the Proteas still believe they can win a Test match in India.
A win of any kind would be good right now for the Proteas. After the final Test against Virat Kohli’s team that starts in Ranchi on Saturday, the South African team won’t be together again until the third week of December, to start preparing for England. Lose that Boxing Day Test in Centurion, and 2019 can be officially termed an ‘annus horribilis’ for South African cricket in general and the Proteas in particular.
Rabada joined Cricket SA’s chief executive Thabang Moroe in pleading for patience from fans.
“We are going through a transition period as a team, it’s a team that is very fresh and young, the best we can do is look where we can improve but also remember our strengths as a team and build on those strengths."
"It’s been a huge learning curve, but we need to challenge ourselves to try and execute what we have learnt. That’s the challenge of sport. It’s never easy coming to India, it’s a challenge for us to execute our plans and lessons.”
Rabada added that the Proteas are not used to losing although some cynics may point to the World Cup this year - where the side lost five out of nine matches - and the fact that it has lost all of its last four Tests as proof that the opposite maybe true.
India was never going to be an easy trip. In fact many experts pointed out that even had the Proteas not had the raft of retirements that have occurred in the last 18 months, the team would still have found it challenging.
It’s been the manner of the defeats that have been disturbing however - especially in the second Test. Rabada and the South African bowlers got first use of reasonably grassy surface in Pune, that had pace, bounce and seam movement, but on which they allowed the Indians to score 600. Even the hosts were surprised at the relative ease with which they achieved that hefty total.
“They got the ball to reverse, they bowled well as a collective,” Rabada remarked pointedly on Tuesday. “The spinners, their whole attack, put pressure on us, from every single aspect. The spinners bowled well. The seamers exploited it when the ball started to reverse. We couldn’t get the ball to reverse and that’s a major weapon of ours.”
Besides that hefty first innings total, India’s triumph in Pune was also built on better use of the new ball, an element that has always been central to South Africa’s success in the sub-continent.
However neither Rabada nor Vernon Philander were able to breakthrough in a manner that put India under pressure and once the home team’s batsmen had seen them off they punished the rest of the attack.
Rabada, who picked up three wickets, and bowled well in spurts, insisted that lessons had been learned, by everyone.
“It’s about looking at the bigger picture, where we are going as a team. Guys are naturally in that phase where they are learning about their games, playing in different conditions, in international cricket.The more experience we get and the lessons that will come our should make us better,” he said.
Belief in the group remains strong. “We believe we can win, we really do; it will be great to back it up with a good performance before we leave. That will actually reassure us, it will give us much more confidence knowing that we have played here and won.”
The third and final Test of the series starts in the north east Indian city of Ranchi on Saturday.