India v South Africa, 1st Test, Nagpur, 4th day February 9, 2010

Conservative approach hurt India - Smith

N Hunter
  shares

South Africa captain Graeme Smith feels India's "conservative approach" in Nagpur cost them dearly and has said that playing an extra bowler in place of the untested Wriddhiman Saha would have been a more favourable option.

"I guess there are two ways to look at it: you [could] take the more confident approach and play the extra bowler," Smith said, reasoning that both Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan had decent records as tailenders. "They went for a more conservative approach and picked Saha at No 7. Maybe they are regretting that now."

Smith was pleased with the way that the team had maintained its focus despite the rumblings before the series, when long-time coach Mickey Arthur stepped down and Cricket South Africa sacked the entire selection panel.

"There were a lot of shifts and changes and everyone was just trying to find their feet," Smith said. "It helped that there was a lot of honesty around the group and the credit must go to their maturity. Corrie [van Zyl] has created a good working environment for the players and as the weeks have gone on, we have settled down and focussed more and more on our cricket."

"We have been really clinical. It is important to come here, adapt but play our style of cricket. I think we did that every well throughout the game and used our bowlers in short spells."

Not just the bowlers, he also credited Hashim Amla for his fantastic double-century which took them to a commanding position earlier in the Test match. "Amla's double century was great to watch," Smith said. "At No.3 he is becoming the glue. It's terrific to have him there. Hashim is one of the hardest working guys and knows his strength is his mental strength.

"He has got great hands and he scores very quickly. He sticks to his game plans and most of the times he had to battle through some periods in this innings but at other times he is a difficult guy to control. He has provided us a lot of stability. More than his 250, he has been involved in some key partnerships along the way."

Smith has maintained that winning a series in India was a box that remained to be ticked. In 2008, South Africa came close after another Dale Steyn burst had given them a 1-0 lead in Ahmedabad. However, they were welcomed with a rank turner in the final Test in Kanpur, where a combination of a dubious pitch, and dogged half-centuries from Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman secured India a series-levelling win.

Smith had not forgotten the incident, and when asked if he was ready for a similar fate, he quipped, "So are you telling me there's a guy with a rake at the Eden Gardens? India have more control over the conditions. We need to focus on the specifics…prepare and execute our gameplans."