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Firdose Moonda in Johannesburg
December 23, 2013
There's bound to be some bruises the morning after a tough fight. Both South Africa and India would have been nursing a few. Despite competing in one of the most closely contested Tests in recent memory, there was disappointment that neither team was able to claim bragging rights or a series lead. "Ultimately cricket won," AB de Villiers, South Africa's second-innings centurion, said upon the team's arrival in Durban. He spoke to the media on Monday to reveal the emotional toll taken on the team over the five days, the rational explanation for the eventual result, and South Africa's plans to win the series.
What was the feeling in the immediate aftermath?
There were a lot of mixed emotions. It's difficult to handle those situations. Dale [Steyn] was really upset, he struggled to handle it. It really took Graeme [Smith] and a few guys to help him handle it immediately, because of the crowds, the booing and everyone criticising him and Vernon [Philander]. They took a lot of strain and it was up to the team to pull through that but it was really tough.
A guy like me, I felt really good about the game of cricket. I am always a guy that looks past the results and I feel really lucky to have been part of that. I gave it my best shot, so did Faf [du Plessis], so did the whole team and we just came short in winning a spectacular Test match but very blessed to have been part of the match. It will go down in the history books as one of the best Tests ever. That's how I felt.
Graeme, I don't know, he was quite nervous at the end, running up and down in the changeroom. It was tough to get messages out there, so he let the boys play and let them make the decisions, which I still believe was the right decision. At the end, we had a really good team chat, where Russell [Domingo] and Graeme spoke really wise words and I think the whole team is in a good space after that.
And those words were that it was a great draw?
We pulled up an amazing draw and those were Graeme's words. It was about just how amazing a team we are and what we've achieved over the last while. That we should not go down with the criticism we will get, but to remember that we are a team of character and to keep believing in ourselves and our team-mates. That's why we play the game - for each other. So we look each other in the eye and we are really chuffed with a great draw.
Is there still some disappointment or is it mostly relief?
It's a very sensitive one. It's difficult to explain. We came so far and in that sense, we are all disappointed we didn't win the game. India will also be disappointed. I watched the highlights and I think Robin Jackman summed it up well when he said both teams would be disappointed but cricket probably won in the end. It was a great Test match and everyone should remember that. It's really tough to sum it up in the end. It is make or break. You make a silly decision and you lose the Test match. I think a draw was a fair call.
A lot of people are blaming Dale and Vernon but I honestly believe that the Nos. 9, 10, 11 should never be going for the runs. It's up to the top six to score the runs. If responsibility is going to be thrown around, it's on me, Faf and JP and maybe a little bit on Vern at the end there. The minute Dale walked to the crease, the right thing to do was to save the Test match and I thought they did that brilliantly well.
|"People who don't know the game that well will still blame us but if you look at it - wickets in clusters, that always happens at the Wanderers. It was tough for the new batter and that showed when JP came in. Myself and Faf struggled for the first 20 balls, so those are all the things you have to think of. There was a lot of things going through Dale's mind at the end there. So I would say it was a very good draw."|
How would you compare this to the draw in Adelaide last year? Would you say this is a bigger achievement?
It's definitely a better achievement than Adelaide. Maybe we did not have such a great bowling attack that we faced here, but Johannesburg is a lively pitch where not a lot of Tests go to day five. I can't remember the last time didn't get a result at the Wanderers. To get away with a draw and to bat so much time was a hell of an achievement.
There's so many things to take into consideration. People who don't know the game that well will still blame us but if you look at it - wickets in clusters, that always happens at the Wanderers. It was tough for the new batter and that showed when JP came in. Myself and Faf struggled for the first 20 balls, so those are all the things you have to think of. There was a lot of things going through Dale's mind at the end there. So I would say it was a very good draw.
What do you think the team can take away from this Test?
We were outplayed in the first three days and towards the end of our second bowling innings, we leaked more than we normally would. So we needed a bit more care with the ball in hand. We could have saved 20 or 30 runs, which would have taken us across the line.
We started slowly. They were a bit smarter than us. It's hard to say that in our conditions but it is a fact for the first innings. We adapted well in the second innings. For some reason, it got a bit slower, which was weird. The Wanderers wicket always picks up pace. Its frustrating that we started slowly but we still got away with a draw. We'd like to start better. The first session of day one will be important for us to set a good trend and send the message that we are here to win a Test match.
South Africa have lost their last four Tests at Kingsmead and the venue has become something of their nemesis of late. With this match being a must-win, what do you expect?
I am confused about Durban. I don't know what to expect. I am going to play it like I always play my cricket. I am going to take it one ball at a time and use my experience to adapt as quickly as I can. So will the whole team. I think there will be a bit of movement on the first day. Batting first always seemed the better option in the past. I don't expect as many cracks as there was at the Wanderers. It will probably be a bit more green, a bit firmer, and there may be a bit of turn towards the end of the Test.
With Morne Morkel unlikely to play, which of Kyle Abbott or Rory Kleinveldt do you think will get the nod and when will the decision be made?
It will come down to the morning of the game for Morne. It's an injury where he could probably play, that's my gut feel, but the chances of him breaking down half-way through the Test match will be good. Any little misplacing of the foot could happen. If he is not 100%, he shouldn't play but that is up to the fitness trainer. Morne definitely wants to get on. You know Morne. He wanted to bowl in the last innings. He's crazy. My gut feel is that we will go with 12 into the morning, let Morne run around and then see. I have no idea who is in better form between the other two. Rory has been with us on tour while Kyle has been bowling well domestically. It's up to the captain and coach to make that call.
The spinners were ineffective and fairly expensive at the Wanderers. Will South Africa opt for a more containing bowler in Robin Peterson in Durban?
JP had a decent game. He was the best spinner in the match. He picked up wickets at important times and if he hadn't, we may have had to chase over 500. Spin will play a bit more of a role here in Durban, so it's a tough one.
Immi [Imran Tahir] has bowled really well in the last few months. He didn't have a great game at the Wanderers but that is part of sport. We know what he is capable of. It's always tempting to get Immi into your starting XI, even if you play on a road. Even on glass, he can get you wickets. He seems to run through the tail easily. It's a tough decision to make. We lacked control at the Wanderers, not just from Immi, from all the bowlers.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
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