India in South Africa 2013-14 December 12, 2013

Zaheer, Ashwin promise fight in Tests


Two of India's most experienced bowlers, Zaheer Khan and R Ashwin, have promised a better fight in the upcoming Tests after India were blanked 2-0 in the ODIs. Zaheer, one of the few in this Indian team not shy to have a word, has begun to stir up the opposition. Ashwin, meanwhile, has said he will not throw in the towel just yet.

When asked to respond to South Africa players' comments that they have scarred a few of the visitors, Zaheer made his feelings known. "You know, talk is talk," Zaheer said. "You can talk as much as you like outside. Once you go on to the field, it's all about doing. And I think this Indian team will do the needful. Whatever it's going to take to win this series."

Zaheer is a bowler who plays mind games well. Once he spots a weakness in a batsman, he goes all the way with it. He has done that to South Africa's Test captain, Graeme Smith, successfully in the past. This in itself, many Indian pundits felt, was reason enough to bring Zaheer to South Africa. And he is no mood to let Smith forget that he has dismissed him 13 times in 396 balls in all international cricket. Asked if he had any new plans to get Smith out, Zaheer said, "I just have to turn up."

Just so he didn't sound too obnoxious, though, Zaheer added, "Having said that, Graeme Smith has got a terrific record in Test matches. He's a good leader. It's good to have that advantage. When you go into a match and have that edge over someone who has been a good opener and [has] been scoring consistently at the highest level."

Ashwin is part of the ODI side that has taken a hammering in the recently concluded ODI series, which India lost 2-0. He is a combative and proud man too. It doesn't sit well with him that he has gone for 169 runs off 168 balls for a solitary wicket in the series thus far. He might, rightly, not agree that India's performance so far is a "disaster", but pride says he will have give it his all in the Tests.

"I am definitely here in terms of looking to fight and just go on fighting," Ashwin said. "I am prepared for a fight. I want to take it to the field and see what I can actually do. Be it with catching, be it with bowling or be it with batting. I am prepared for all. So I am just going to go out there and make sure that I at least give it 100% of what I can to try for a series win. It cannot get any better. It means the most to me in life."

Ashwin said that he started to work on his Test bowling during the last, inconsequential, ODI, although he did also, for some reason, mention that he had achieved what he wanted to achieve through his bowling in the ODIs. "In terms of what I wanted to achieve out of the ODI series, it's pretty much through," Ashwin, on his first tour to South Africa, said. "I wanted to test the conditions, see how much it responded to what I was delivering. Yesterday, pretty much, the Test match was more on my mind. I thought I can toss a lot more balls up and see where it goes. Definitely the ball was drifting much more.

"I think it's got to [do] much [with] the air in terms of what I'm planning to do here. [I just] try and set fields and bowl straighter lines. I've chatted to a few people who have been here and done well so that's going to help. I'd like to play the situation rather than anything else. I've prepared myself in terms of what I can deliver at the best of my abilities, and then I'll take the situation at hand and do what the situation demands."

Patience and accuracy, Ashwin said, were going to be key to performing well in the Test series. Asked if his mindset changes from being a wicket-taker to the one holding up one end when he goes out of Asia, he said, "Whatever I have heard and whatever tour I have gone on, I was always expected to take wickets. There's no two ways about it. I have my personal expectations, and I would like to do well anywhere I go.

"Nothing means more to me than an overseas victory. In terms of planning a spell or building up a scenario, it's going to be the key here. Need to be patient here, in terms of let[ting] things happen, rather than look to make things happen. The time will come when you can make things happen."

Ashwin said he will need to contribute not only as a bowler, but also as a batsman and fielder. "There are three facets of the game," Ashwin said. "I'll be standing at slips, I'll be bowling, I'll be batting. I would fight in every department. I am dead serious about it. I will definitely throw every bit. I will never throw the towel, and I'll try and see where I can go [from] here. There is nothing that will mean more to me than a victory overseas."

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Matrix on December 17, 2013, 14:30 GMT

    If one were to go by what happened in the ODIs , SA is clear favourites winning the test series 2-0. India stands no chance at all. But there is a lesson to be learnt in the art of batting in fast surfaces , abroad. Hope Indian batsmen put their BIG egos aside and learn that.

  • Sanjay on December 16, 2013, 11:07 GMT

    @ Solid_Snake on (December 13, 2013, 10:04 GMT) India will Fight as much as you want..and will ensure they dont get bowled out for 49 and tests that could have ended in 2 days that were deliberately lengthened by South Africa against Pakistan lolzzzzzz

  • Sanjay on December 16, 2013, 11:03 GMT

    @TommytuckerSaffa on (December 14, 2013, 20:28 GMT) South Africa have never won a world cup in any country or any format!. This trend will continue.

  • Matrix on December 16, 2013, 7:48 GMT

    Ashwin and other bowlers will have to work hard during this series. Its not going to be easy . Let them show that on the field...

  • Dummy4 on December 15, 2013, 18:42 GMT

    i would prefer umesh yadav over bhuvi because of his pace. Umesh is somewhat like sreesanth with less control over line/lenght but was successful in taking wickets with ocassional rippers. Umesh also did well in australia before getting injured. Australia & south africa pitches are somewhat the same.

  • Yogesh on December 15, 2013, 13:53 GMT

    One day is a different ball game compared to test cricket .We cant compare.We know all teams struggle with conditions when they go overseas. India has never won a series in SA or Australia. Even these teams struggle when they come to India but their performance in India is comparatively better than India's performance in those countries. To just compare SA and India since 1992 when they began playing. India played 16 tests in SA . They have won 2 , lost 8 and drawn 6.

    SA played 12 tests in India. They have won 5 , lost 5 and drawn 2. SA have won a series in India in 2000. India is yet to win a series in SA. If you check stats against Australia, it is worse. particularly since we need to go back to the 47s so there is more data:)

    But again Australia has won series in India on many occasions. India is yet to win one over there.

    India's success will depend on Zaheer and Ishant mainly (Pace) I think the Johannesburg pitch is good for spinners but Ashwin is no Anil kumble :)

  • Ocajian on December 15, 2013, 6:55 GMT

    Such a damn pity that this is not a 3 or 5 test series. I've always loved watching the titanic battles between Zaheer Khan and the South African batsman.

    Hopefully the Proteas end up destroying India as revenge for bullying us into a much shorter tour schedule.

  • Dummy4 on December 15, 2013, 2:31 GMT

    Best Indian XI. vijay, dhawan, pujara, kholi, rohit, rahanee, dhoni, ojha, zaheer, shami, bhuvi. U already have 6 batsman and bhuvi who has first class test centuries. So prefer going for the better spinner in ojha.

  • kabelo on December 14, 2013, 23:00 GMT

    @ Vigneshwaran19 Do you know the difference between ODI cricket and test cricket???? obviously not...its no our fault that out of a billion people you battle to find 2 decent fast a country that has cricket as thier no 1 sport...we produce world class batsmen(that perform in all conditions consistently) we could find a pace bowler in the blitz bokke rugby team that would burst into your starting 11..

  • greig on December 14, 2013, 20:28 GMT

    India have never won a series in SA. This trend will continue.