Centurion: South African captain Graeme Smith was happy that his team was able to put up a “dominant performance” as they beat India by an innings and 25 runs in the first Test but he also praised maestro Sachin Tendulkar for scoring his 50th Test century under pressure.
“It was a pretty dominant performance. We controlled the game throughout the four days. I think the partnership between Sachin and MS was the only time that we really needed to put in the yards,” Smith told the reporters at the post-match media conference.
Smith showered accolades on Sachin, saying, “The guy has scored 50 Test hundreds so it’s a bit hard to rate this one. He’s scored a few hundreds before I can even remember. Under pressure, being able to score runs is a feather in his cap.
“I was a bit surprised that he made life for us so easy this morning. I think MS needs credit for the partnership as well, if he didn’t hang around, Sachin wouldn’t have got his 50th,” he added.
“The wicket flattened out a lot. It was hot and windy and the guys showed a lot of character, especially Dale’s spell at the end. We were ahead for the whole part of the match. We scored runs at a good pace which gave us a lot of time to bowl India out,” Smith stated.
Smith isn’t too worried about the fact that India’s pace spearhead Zaheer Khan will make a comeback in the next Test match.
When asked to comment on the possible return of Zaheer for the next Test, Smith said, “I don’t personalize things too much. I prepare for Zaheer the same way, I prepare for everyone else. He’s a new ball bowler and I’m an opening batsman, so it’s a natural challenge. He has obviously bowled well to left handers, so it’s an exciting prospect.”
Although Smith agreed that it was a good toss to win but at the same time he thought that Indians read a bit too much about the strip which was under covers for four days before the Test match started.
“It (winning the toss) was definitely a positive for us. I don’t think the wicket actually did that much. For a wicket that was under covers for four days, I thought it would do a bit more. In my mind, I think India expected more from the wicket than what actually happened,” the South African skipper said.
He explained, “They (Indian batsmen) were tentative and were on the back foot a lot of the time. Our bowlers bowled well. When you bowl on a wicket that you think is going to do a bit, you’ve got to get the ball in the right place. We were very controlled and I think we did well.”
The skipper was all praise for Jacques Kallis who scored his maiden double century in Test cricket.
“He gives us balance. He allows us to play five bowlers which is big thing in Test cricket to have that extra option. We can use him in short aggressive spells. In the modern era, he is the best all ?rounder. It’s hard to compare him with cricketers from other eras.”
Smith stressed on the fact that they need to refocus and it won’t be easy to get 20 wickets in Durban.
“For us, its about getting refocused. Who knows how the wicket will play in Durban, there’s been a lot of rain there around this period also. We’ve got to be realistic. As a batting unit, we’ve become a very strong top six.
“The guys have had good performances for a long time and we’d like to think we are a strong, powerful batting unit and we can cope with conditions wherever we go.”
The home team captain admitted that there will be enormous pressure on the Indians to make a comeback in the series.
“Pressure will be on the Indian team. When you are down 0-1 in a three-match series, there’s always extra pressure. The build-up to the next Test becomes crucial the decisions you make, how you train, the selection, how the squad moves to the next Test.
He continued, “They will be feeling a lot of pressure. I know the Indian team always play under pressure, but they will feel it. There’s high expectations and they’ve won a lot of big series and they are No 1 in world. If we can go to Durban and really ut in a good first few days there, it will be great.”