“We know Rishabh plays positively and he plays in a particular manner and that has got him a little bit of success,” Dravid said in his post-match press conference. “But yeah, of course there are times when we’re going to have some level of conversations with him around, just a little bit of maybe just selection of the time to play that [shot].
“No one’s ever going to tell Rishabh not to be a positive player, not to be an aggressive player, but sometimes it’s just a question of picking and choosing the time to do that. I think when you just come in, maybe giving yourself a bit more time might be a little bit more advisable, but look, in the end we know what we’re getting with Rishabh – he is a really positive player, he’s someone who can change the course of a game very quickly for us, so you naturally won’t take that away from him and ask him to become something very different. Sometimes it’s just about figuring out what is the right time to maybe attack or maybe play out a slightly difficult period that sets the game up for you or sets the innings up.
“He’s learning. He plays in a particular way, so it’s always something that he’s going to keep learning, he’s going to keep improving and keep getting better.”
On a challenging pitch characterised by uneven bounce, India were neck-and-neck with South Africa for three-fourths of the Test match before the hosts pulled away in a fourth-innings chase of 240, their captain Dean Elgar steering them home with an unbeaten 96. Dravid felt the result could have gone differently had India put up a bigger first-innings total after winning the toss.
“It’s been challenging wickets for both the teams,” he said. “This fourth innings was probably their best innings as well. The wickets have been a little challenging, I will give that to the batsmen, but yes, honestly we pride ourselves on wanting to do better and wanting to get better, so yes, as a batting unit we can certainly look to maybe seize a few key moments and when we get those partnerships, maybe make them a little bit longer.
“There could have been phases in the first innings where it was challenging, the ball was tending to kick up a little bit, but we could have probably got maybe 60-70 runs more, it probably could have made a significant difference in this game.
“So yes, certainly we would like to bat a little bit better, maybe some of the guys who got starts could have converted those into, say, hundreds. That was a difference in the first game – we had [KL] Rahul who went on to get a hundred for us and we ended up on the winning side. Second game, they had someone who ended up on 96 at the end of the game and they ended up on the winning side, so it really shows you the importance of, on these kinds of wickets especially, one of your batsmen going on and making a big score.
“It’s not easy batting conditions, so if one of your batsmen who gets set can go on and make a significant score, that certainly adds those 60-70 runs to the total, which sometimes prove to be the difference in the end.”
‘We had their backs’ – Rahul on Pujara-Rahane
“I think if I have to be really harsh, it’s the first innings, after winning the toss we could have put 60 or 70 more on the board and gone in [to the second innings] with 50-60 lead,” Rahul said at the post-match presentation. “That would have been really crucial for us in the second innings.”
Apart from Rahul, no batter managed to get to 50 in that innings, with the second-best score coming from No. 7, R Ashwin, who hit a counterattacking 46 to lift the side to 202. That was to remain the lowest innings total of the match.
Rahul was all praise for Thakur. “Shardul has had a great Test match. In the few Test matches he’s played, he’s really created that sort of impact and won us games. Really happy with the way he’s bowled and with the contribution that he had with the bat as well, it was really crucial for us and gave us a change to win the Test.”
Before Thakur, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane did the bulk of the work in India’s second innings, hitting brisk half-centuries in a stand of 111 for the third wicket. The partnership came at a time when the pair’s places in the side were potentially under pressure, with both batters having endured extended periods of poor form.
The team’s official stance, however, has always been to back both batters publicly, and Rahul maintained that stance.
“They’ve been great players for us, they’ve done the job for the team over the years. They’ve obviously been under the pump a little bit but in the team we really believe Pujara and Ajinkya are our best middle-order batsmen and they prove that time and again,” he said. “So we really had their backs and to go out there and put up a performance like that it really shows the mindset they are in and the fighters they are. We always knew they could do something like that. Hopefully that gives them a lot of confidence and they can do out in the next game and put in an even better performance.”
‘Kohli should be fit for Cape Town’
Dravid was also confident Kohli would be fit to play in Cape Town.
“I think he should be fine, from all accounts he should be fine,” he said. “He’s had the opportunity to run around a little bit, he’s had the opportunity to test it a little bit, I’ll be down only now at the moment in the nets with a few throwdowns and stuff, so hopefully with a few net sessions in Cape Town, he should be good to go.
“I haven’t had a detailed discussion with the physio as yet, but from everything I’m hearing and from just having a chat with him, he’s really improving and should be good to go in four days’ time.”
“Firstly I think Vihari played really well in this Test match, in both innings in fact,” Dravid said. “I think in the first innings he got a nasty one, unfortunately for him it popped up and the fielder got his fingertips to it and took a really good catch, and he batted beautifully in the second innings, so that gives us a lot of confidence.
“Shreyas has also done that two or three Test matches ago, he’s got runs as well, and I think they’ve just got to take heart from the fact that whenever they’re getting the opportunities they are doing well, and hopefully their time will come. You look back on some of our guys who are now considered senior players, they also had to wait their time.
“They also had to score a lot of runs, they’ve had, at the start of their careers, it’s probably been a bit stop-start as well. So it happens. It’s just the nature of the sport, it’s the nature of the game, and it will happen, so I think they can take heart [from their performances] and we can take a lot of confidence from the way Vihari batted in this game, he really played well, that should give him a lot of confidence, and it certainly gives us a lot of confidence.”
If Siraj is not fit, India have back-up in the experienced Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav for the match, which starts on January 11.