Anil Kumble said South Africa were wrong in picking three spinners in their XI for the first Test against India in Visakhapatnam, saying they were influenced by the horrors of their 2015 tour to India.
South Africa had lost the four-Test series in 2015 by a 3-0 margin, struggling to compete against India’s spinners on spin-friendly wickets. They picked spinners in Keshav Maharaj, Dane Piedt and Senuran Munusamy for the first Test this time, opting to leave Lungi Ngidi out. The spinners were ineffective, with only Maharaj impressing a little while the other two struggled.
“When some of the foreign teams that come to India they tend to match the Indian balance and their balance goes haywire and that is what the South African team has fallen into," Kumble told cricketnext. “I don’t know what they saw in the first day pitch but they probably thought that this was going to be a minefield, they probably had the previous series in mind when they travelled here in 2015 and they probably had those demons still in the mind when they saw the pitch and that is probably why they chose three spinners. You just need to back your strengths and back your spinners and then go with that rather than reacting to what you see.
“And unless or until you have three quality spinners who can win you a match, you should go with the balance that you think can pick up 20 wickets. They probably read the pitch wrong and that’s why they went with three spinners."
Kumble assessed that South Africa are a quality side, especially in the batting. Dean Elgar and Quinton de Kock scored tons in the first innings in Visakhapatnam while Faf du Plessis made a fighting half-century. Kumble expected that to continue, and said South Africa will be competitive if they fix their bowling combination.
“South Africa are a quality side," he said. “Unfortunately in the second innings, that first session at the start before lunch, Shami just blew them away. The odd ball was keeping low and Shami got everything on the stumps. Early on when you get those kind of deliveries, if you are a bit circumspect, it can backfire and that is exactly what happened to South Africa. Maybe because the previous day had not gone well for them that is why they believed it was pretty easy.
“Still you know, it can happen to you. And that is something South Africa would have discussed; take the first innings when you had Quinton de Kock and Dean Elgar scoring hundreds, Faf Du Plessis looked really good in the first innings. Even in the second innings until he had that brain fade which he does sometimes - he just leaves the ball and I think they have the capability of a big score against India, they have shown that in the first innings and that is the confidence they need to take into the second match.
“One thing that they need to fix very quickly is that their bowling line up. You would want your bowlers to look threatening. In very few stages of the game did they threaten the Indian batsmen so that is something that the South Africans must be contemplating, on which combination they need to pick to get those 20 Indian wickets."