Before the second One-Day International, Aiden Markram was asked if he saw the South African batsmen’s inability to deal with India’s wrist-spin duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal as a problem. Markram gave credit to the bowlers’ skills but insisted he saw no larger problem at hand.
On Sunday (February 4), South Africa dealt with the spinners with even less assurance, with the result that they were bowled out for 118 in just 32.2 overs, their lowest score ever in a home ODI. Chahal was the wrecker-in-chief with 5 for 22, Kuldeep taking 3 for 20. Markram stuck to his guns and said playing spin was not a ‘massive danger’ for South Africa.
“Obviously, they are two quality bowlers in their own right,” the South African skipper said. “I don’t think we played them particularly well and that’s where our downfall was today. Having said that, you are never going to come across a bad attack in international cricket, and you’re never going to come across a bad batting line-up in international cricket either. It’s just one of those things. I don’t think we played spin incredibly well, it’s obviously something we need to work on, but it’s not a massive danger for us, I don’t think.”
Markram, who had a rough initiation in his captaincy debut in only his third ODI, said that the abject defeat – India cantered to victory in 20.3 overs, losing only one wicket – was an eye-opener but could rally the team together for the rest of the series, with India 2-0 up and four matches to play.
“Yeah, eye-opening definitely. But… it might just bring out the best in our squad, might bring some fight into the game. So I’m looking forward to seeing how the guys react,” he said. “Obviously the guys are very upset and disappointed. But the beauty of it is that everyone’s disappointed in themselves, and not in others in the team. That’s where the culture stands out, it stands strong. Each player will look to get better now going forward. It is a quick turnaround but it might fire the guys up going into the remaining four matches, which I think is a great thing for us.”
Markram said that he was happy with the game-plan each player had for dealing with the spinners, but it was just a matter of getting the execution right. “My general game-plan is to try and take it quite deep, bat through the innings and let our attacking batsmen sort of play around me,” he explained. “I obviously didn’t do that today, that’s what happens in cricket. I try to keep it as low risk as possible, and then as soon as we get partnerships building we’ll chat between players and identify which bowler we’d like to put some pressure on and which guy we think we should just going low-risk. It all depends on the day as well.
“I don’t think there’s too much of a lack of a game-plan,” he added. “If you speak to each individual in our top six, top seven, each person has got a clear plan. So it obviously comes down to execution on the day. Like I said, they are two quality wrist-spinners and we give them credit. But I still think we can execute better, and that’s the nice thing. It’s not that something that’s drastic that has to change – the plans are in place, now we’ve just got to keep working hard to execute that’s all.”
Dale Benkenstein, the batting coach, said there was plenty to learn from how the Indians handled Imran Tahir and Tabraiz Shamsi, South Africa’s spinners. “Against spin, you still need to look to score,” said Benkenstein. “Today, I thought we had the intent. There were a few balls on which guys were looking to score and hit it to fielders and got out. I’d much rather them playing that way than being too scared to hit the ball. We can learn a lot a from the way Indian batters play spin. Any loose ball that our spinners bowl, they are looking to hit it for four or six. There is a bit of learning to be done there. The other tough thing is you are playing against two wrist-spinners that not a lot of players have played against. It does take time to get used to their changeups, their variations.”
Benkenstein held that some of South Africa’s batsmen had contributed to getting themselves out with soft dismissals, and that the packed schedule also made it tougher to get quality time to practice for the Indian spinners.
“Unfortunately, we’ve gone straight from a Test series on quite sporty seaming wickets straight into ODIs and we’ve come up against a huge challenge,” he said. “I thought we had a very good practice yesterday… But things don’t turn around overnight. There isn’t much time to practice but I don’t think today we got out to the spinners bowling us out. I think we had some soft dismissals there. I also think the positive thing is we’re probably not even at 50% of our capabilities with bat and ball. So it’s obviously our job as a coaching staff to try and get out the best in them. Obviously it’s not easy when things are moving from one day to the next.”
For his part, Markram said the blame lay squarely with the batsmen and that the pitches for the two ODIs so far had been good. “I don’t think the pitches have been too bad. Today’s wicket, we just didn’t play good cricket on it, that’s all. No excuses towards the pitch or anything along those lines, we’re pointing the finger straight back at ourselves, and we need to get better.”