India’s loss to South Africa in the first One Day International has given a chance to doubters who questioned stand-in captain K L Rahul’s ability to lead the team in future. Little master Sunil Gavaskar said he did not understand Rahul’s “planning and strategy” and his choice of not letting some players like Shivam Dube and Venkatesh Iyer perform when the team needed them.
Gavaskar was surprised with Rahul’s response when South Africa captain Temba Bavuma and Rassie van der Dussen were building a match-winning partnership (204 runs) in the first ODI in Paarl on Wednesday. “Rahul should have allowed (Jasprit) Bumrah and (Bhuvneshwar) Kumar to bowl more overs at the backend and use Venkatesh Iyer in the middle overs,” Gavaskar said in an interview to Sports Today. Surprisingly, Rahul did not give a single over to the medium pacer from Madhya Pradesh.
Gavaskar said that since Venkatesh Iyer was new to the home team, he could have helped break the Bavuma-Dussen partnership and given India a realistic chance to win the match. “Only the captain has the answer as to why Venkatesh wasn’t bowled even once… the oppositions did not know much about him. And when such a scenario arises, giving a couple of overs will allow the batters to know him,” Gavaskar said during the TV interview.
The former cricketer said he felt Rahul had no clue how to break the Bavuma-Dussen partnership. “Well, when there is a partnership, sometimes the captain goes out of ideas. I think that is what happened. This was a very good pitch to bat on. The ball was coming onto the bat quite nicely, you can play through the line,” Gavaskar said.
“And sometimes, that rhythm with which the batters are playing can also break. Had he given an over (to Iyer), something else could have happened. He could have given away 20-25 runs but at least it would have been something different,” the former cricketer added.
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Gavaskar expressed similar surprise at not utilising Shivam Dube. “Shivam did not get the chances and encouragement that he should have. What is the reason behind it is something that might be answered in the press conference? What planning, what strategy was it that you didn’t even give him a single over,” he pointed out.
Rahul was the stand-in captain for Rohit Sharma, who is nursing a hamstring injury. In a word of encouragement for Rahul, Gavaskar said, “It’s still early days for captain KL Rahul and I hope India can turn it around in the 2nd and 3rd ODIs of the ongoing series in South Africa.”
Gavaskar, meanwhile, praised Shikhar Dhawan who hit a useful 79 on his return to the ODI side. “As far as Shikhar Dhawan is concerned, he has been scoring runs in the 50-over format, not so much in T20s. So as long as the man is scoring runs, everything else should be put in the background.”
In the first ODI, South Africa scored 296 for the loss of 4 wickets while restricting India to 265/8.
India will face the Proteas in the 2nd ODI in Paarl on January 21.