Former South African wicket-keeper and the most successful wicket-keeper in international cricket till date, Mark Boucher is known, to be honest with his answers. He also gave a reality check to Lungi Ngidi during his time with the Titans as their coach. Boucher who was arguably the best of his time along with Adam Gilchrist revealed what went wrong for India in the ongoing Test series against South Africa so far and why the final Test at the Bullring in Johannesburg might well be the toughest assignment for them.
During an exclusive interview with Hindustan Times, he answered several questions. When asked what went wrong for India in the series and was it overconfidence which brought about their downfall, Boucher said:
“I don’t think so. The conditions in Cape Town were tough. India has got some fantastic batsmen, (but) probably batsmen who aren’t used to those sort of conditions. Being a South African cricketer and knowing what our players can do, I always felt comfortable our batsmen can handle seam movement better than the Indians because they are playing that all the time. Our bowlers are taller.”
“ Looking at the wicket at SuperSport (for the second Test), when a wicket is up and down, the taller you are the more advantage you got in a bowling attack. There are a couple of Indian bowlers who are tall, but the other guys are quite short. So you can be on the front foot to them. There weren’t too many Indian batsmen hanging on to their front foot to any of our bowlers. That plays a major role. But I think it’s really the batsmen. You have got a few classy batsmen, but they aren’t used to seeing this amount of movement and playing long innings.”
He was asked whether the Indian batsmen don’t know how to bat out time. In response, Boucher said:
“If we go to India, (if) there is a bit of a difficult session that will affect us. And then the game turns. And then all of a sudden the batsmen start taking advantage. The wickets get flatter. That little bit of movement in the wickets isn’t sustainable. But when they come to South Africa, you are never quite in as a batsman. That’s what they have struggled with.
“A couple of them faced like 40-50 balls and then they feel ‘I should be in now’. On any other wicket in India, you are in and it’s a nice time for them to start dominating. In South Africa, unfortunately, there is always a bit of movement, so it’s about a mental switch-about for the batsmen. They have to say ‘I can’t really dominate as much as I do in India and I could be a little more patient and almost kind of grind the bowling’. I understand. The wickets are seamer-friendly, and we would be stupid not to make seamer-friendly wickets. When we go to India, we don’t expect any red carpet to be laid out. The ball turns square. It’s something different for us to try to adjust and it’s the same for the Indian batsmen when they come to South Africa,” Boucher further said.
The visitors have been pretty poor with their fielding, especially in the slip cordon. When asked about this aspect Boucher said:
“Well, the conditions are different. The ball in the slips comes a lot higher, a lot quicker. The angles the Indians are standing in the slips are completely wrong. A couple of balls, especially to left-handers when the bowlers come around the wicket, the first slip has to be tighter. In India, because the edges come a lot slowly, you have time to move. In South Africa, the edges come quickly and fairly high. Your keeper hasn’t got enough time to move, which means the first slip has to come closer. Once again, the more they play in South African conditions, the more they will learn about these sort of things. Unfortunately, they didn’t learn quickly enough and are 2-0 down.”
Speaking on Virat Kohli’s batting and captaincy Boucher said:
“Virat Kohli has been fantastic. I know Virat’s very emotional and his passion comes through. I have played with him (at RCB) and I understand that. I fully respect that. He plays at a very high intensity and expects that from the players as well. And I think the players have responded to him very well. Technically, there’s not too much he has done wrong. Maybe a couple of fielding positions here and there but Virat’s still learning. He is very young as a captain and hasn’t played a lot of cricket in South Africa. He has been inspirational, led from the front. He had a great knock at SuperSport. He really tried hard in the second innings in tough conditions in Cape Town. For me, he certainly ticks the boxes as captain and player at the moment. He has used what he had at his disposal very well. He will get better as he plays more in these conditions.”
He further added that whether Ajinkya Rahane will be successful in these conditions can be judged only after he gets a game.
“I think so. I think he can play very well. Whether he can play in these conditions, we will be able to find out only when he plays. Players like Ajinkya have done the business. They have put the runs at some stage of their careers,” Boucher said.
He also expected a greener pitch at the New Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg which is the venue for the 3rd and the final Test of the series.
“A lot greener (pitch) than what you have seen. The one wicket the South Africans will be licking their lips to play on is at the Wanderers. We know it’s definitely going to be the quickest and the one with the most bounce. But India has also won a Test here. So, if they bowl in the right areas, they can also put pressure on the South Africa batsmen. I think with the height of our bowlers, India’s batsmen have to work really hard to get their runs. There will be a few balls flying past their ears as well,” Boucher concluded.
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