Virat Kohli has been facing the wrath of former cricketers and fans over selection calls that saw the exclusion of pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar for the ongoing second Test against South Africa in Centurion.
The visitors, in fact, made three changes — KL Rahul replaced Shikhar Dhawan while an injured Wriddhiman Saha made way for Parthiv Patel, besides Ishant Sharma coming in for Kumar.
Off-spinner R Ashwin revealed on Saturday (January 13) that the unanticipated conditions at SuperSport Park in Centurion forced the team to make the last-minute changes.
After the pacers reigned supreme at Newlands in the first Test, India had decided to go in with an "all-seam attack" for the second Test. However, they decided against it and included Ashwin into the playing XI after inspecting the pitch on the eve of the second Test, according to the Tamil Nadu off-spinner, who starred with three wickets on Saturday.
"Two days from the game it looked like we are going to play an all-seam attack. And then when we walked into the ground yesterday, it was white in colour, the grass was coming off. All of a sudden, I really had to pull myself back and think 'I am in the game now.'," Ashwin told mediapersons after the day's play on Saturday.
He added: "Today morning, when we came to the ground, it looked like a wicket that was really flat and had to have a spinner in the game.
"Personally, from my side of it, I was very happy that the grass was taken off, if not I think it would have been an all-seam attack. That's the way it goes, right? I have seen a lot of cricket matches where people who haven't been in contention to play the match, come in and get those wickets. So, this was one of those days."
No assistance for pacers at Centurion!
Notably, the pace-rich Newlands wicket was lauded by both Kohli and Faf du Plessis, and the SuperSport Park was expected to offer similar assistance to pacers.
On the eve of the second Test, the Centurion wicket looked browner than normal with very little grass on top. However, it was reportedly revealed that the track would offer enough pace and bounce for seamers but seam movement would not be there because of the lack of grass.
Contrary to expectations, the Newlands track had nothing for fast bowlers on Day 1 as Mohammed Shami and Co struggled against the South African batsmen, who relished the batsman-friendly conditions before losing wickets in a hurry in the final session on Saturday.
Shami and Bumrah, who troubled the South African batsmen in Cape Town, looked out of sorts on Saturday, conceding at 4.18 and 3.17 respectively without being able to get a breakthrough for the team.
On the other hand, Ishant managed to repay the faith his captain had in him by picking up the crucial wicket of AB de Villiers on Day 1.
Ashwin was clearly the star of the day for India with the ball as he picked up three wickets, including that of openers Aiden Markram (94), Dean Elgar (31). The third was Quinton de Kock (0).