India in South Africa 2013-14 December 23, 2013

Booing crowds upset Steyn - De Villiers


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 correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on December 26, 2013, 6:07 GMT

    The last thing India wants is a fired up Dale Steyn. The conditions are ripe for him to cutt the india top order to pieces, this isn't good.

  • D on December 25, 2013, 15:34 GMT

    @JohnathonJosephs: Personally, I believe the scenarios you mentioned were the only ones that were plausible / realistic. However, there is one scenario you didn't mention. If SA played for the win (i.e., positive cricket while going for the shots) and one of the two batsmen got out (either Philander or Steyn) then there is a slight possibility that SA could have still collapsed after reverting to a more defensive mindset with the injured Morkel and Tahir trying but incapable of keeping out the remaining balls out. If so, it is possible that the SA fans could have turned on the SA team for not trying to save the game. I'm sure that's what Steyn was thinking and went for safety first rather than risk something unthinkable in his eyes albeit to the rest of us that possibility was an extremely unlikely one.

  • jaya on December 25, 2013, 15:24 GMT

    I think that SF made a mistake by not going for a world record breaking victory.Before the last 2 overs of the match Steyn and Philander should have attempted fpr a victory(16 runs needed in 18 balls),if a wicket falls then,they could have closed shutters and with 2 wickets to go,their tailenders are capable of playing for a draw by defending last 2 overs.A historic opportunity has been missed after D'Villers ans Duplesis played the innings of their life time.A near similar situtation was in the test between Eng and India,when Gavasker played a marathon 221 and brought India near to victory.Then India having a weak tailend batsman had to go for a draw with 3 wickets and about 12 runs needing in the last few overs(may be 7 or 8 overs).May be Cap.Venkataraghavan was justified then to go for a draw.But even with the weak tail end batsman,I felt India should have gone for the victory,to justify Gavasker,s great knock and recording one of the greatest victories in cricket history.

  • Etienne on December 25, 2013, 12:18 GMT

    What johnathonjosephs said. That is all.

  • Johnathon on December 25, 2013, 7:13 GMT

    Its not about it being Test Cricket vs ODI cricket. Its about it being Positive vs Negative Cricket. Lets look at each possible outcome. If South Africa lost (highly unlikely given only 18 balls and if 1 wicket fell, they would play for draw), they would have received applause from all around the cricketing world for their positive intent and how close they came to breaking a world record. If South Africa won, well, does anymore need to be said: it probably would have been the most amazing test win in the history of cricket. If South Africa played positively and one wicket fell/fell short, it would have been fine. Letting 18 balls go without playing a shot and then hitting the last ball for six was an illustration of how ridiculous the Saffers played. Don't know if it was Dale Steyn's decision, or if the order came from up top, but it was negative cricket nonetheless and will be remembered forever because of that

  • Dummy4 on December 25, 2013, 6:59 GMT

    I support the Proteas but their record of breaking our hearts in those crunch moments is horrendous. They deserve all the stick they get for that horrible decision making in those last 3 overs and for Smith to shift blame is horrible. Based purely on this he does not deserve to win a major title cause that was just a spineless display of a winning mentality. I will forget all we've achieved and will remember that we did not dominate because this was the type of thinking he was applying during those times.

  • D on December 25, 2013, 5:54 GMT

    Based on the post game comments it is clear that Steyn was the one who insisted on the defensive play and that it was due to his lack of confidence that he could stay alive. If so, I'll have to say he was paranoid as behind him were Morkel and Tahir and I'm not convinced India could have got all 3 of them out in a space of 3 overs. In a space of 10 overs, maybe. But in 3 overs? I don't think so.

  • jonathan on December 25, 2013, 5:47 GMT

    Choking always going to be SA legacy!!! playing like #1 team in the world between wicket all day even the crowd got involved cheering on their team to victory, a historical land mark of all time then suddenly the dreaded message from G Smith to Philander & Steyn to play it safe. ( mind you Philander made a well played 50 first inning and was playing even better second time around.) I could see the proverbial air been suck out of the stadium. choker choker choker a great team not to win any major tournament this century. This stigma will be very hard for SA to get rid of until they show otherwise....

  • Azhar on December 24, 2013, 22:26 GMT

    I think SA should have tried to win. They had 3 wickets and needed only 16 runs in 18 legal balls which is less than a-run-a-ball. Everybody was disappointed not because they didn't win but because they just didn't try. Both the teams played safe. They did create one of the greatest draws but SA could have achieved the greatest test win and they may have to wait for a century to get such a rare chance.

  • Dummy4 on December 24, 2013, 17:15 GMT

    We have seen this many a times from South Africans. They completely get choked when victory is in sight. It is hard to believe that they didn't go for it. So what if they lose? It would have been one of the most memorable loss. It was history in making either way.