Rest of South Africa v Indians, Benoni November 17, 2006

Chappell defends Indian team after disappointing start

ESPNcricinfo staff

Zaheer Khan's bowling display was one of the few bright spots in a disappointing performance by the Indians in the tour opener © AFP

Greg Chappell, the coach of the Indian team, has sought to deflect criticism of the team's disappointing performance in the first match of their South African tour, saying the players had been pitted against quality opposition without adequate time to adjust to the local conditions.

"It can happen, stepping out of the airplane and playing in two days' time against genuine quality bowling. But that's the only way you are going to learn," Chappell said in a stout defence of his players after the 37-run loss to Rest of South Africa in a warm-up game on Thursday. Chasing a target of 256, the Indians were blown away by the express speed of Dale Steyn, who finished with five for 22 from ten hostile overs.

"I don't know too many players who are well equipped to handle real fast bowling when they first walk on to the international stage. Most of them have to get used to it by experience," Chappell said.

Not only did the batsmen find the going tough, even the bowling came apart in the final overs, with Munaf Patel and Sreesanth both going for more than 60 runs. "We gave a couple of guys an opportunity of bowling in the death overs which they haven't done before. If you want to get better you have got to have those opportunities," Chappell said. "Sometimes it is a painful initiation you have to go through. But then you learn the lesson."

Chappell also felt Mahendra Singh Dhoni has now been part of international cricket long enough to take on more responsibility. "He is going to get better if he takes risk and bears responsibility. I think MS is ready for that role. He has played a reasonable amount of international cricket now."

The one Indian batsman who played a long innings was Rahul Dravid, who made 79, and Chappell felt there was a lot that the younger members of the team could learn from him. "Rahul goes through difficult periods. He did what he has to go to get through those periods. You sometimes don't look very good and you could rather appear uncomfortable. And yet if you go through you gain confidence. It could make it easy next time. It's not something you can teach somebody. It's something you learn by experience. Rahul has learnt it as well as anyone has ever learnt it."

Chappell also found words of praise for Anil Kumble and Zaheer Khan, the two bowlers returning to India's fold. "Zaheer brought his experience to good use and Kumble is the consummate professional. He does everything that needs to be done. He plays with youthful enthusiasm which belies the number of years he has played international cricket."