Head coach of the South African Test team, Shukri Conrad has lashed out at the Cape Town surface on which India and South Africa played out the shortest Test match in cricket history, where the game remarkably ended in 1.5 days, with India emerging victorious in a chaotic clash that lasted all of 642 balls.
In the aftermath of the first Test, there was criticism surrounding the Centurion wicket, which saw the contest end in less than 3 days despite significant rain intervention, but both the players and spectators were left shell-shocked by the Cape Town wicket, where batting turned into a lottery.
South Africa, as a result, got humiliated despite winning the toss, and head coach Conrad came down heavily on the surface.
"I don't know what people want me to say. You only need to look at the scores. 1.5-day Test match! You need to look at how they chased 80 (79). Sad state when you need more luck than skill. All the ethics and values of Test cricket goes out the window," Conrad said in the aftermath of the second Test.
Conrad, however, sympathized with chief curator of Newlands, Braam Mong, who he believed will take significant ‘learnings’ from the Cape Town calamity.
"I know Braam Mong. Braam is a good guy. Sometimes good guys do bad things or make mistakes. This doesn't make him a rubbish groundsman. There will be a lot of learnings for him. I might pop in here and have a word with him to see what he is seeing.
"You have to feel for the groundsmen too. He wants to get it right too... so the wicket might be over-prepared. Take it on the chin," said Conrad.
At the press conference post the second Test, Conrad was also asked about Cricket South Africa’s controversial decision to prioritize SA20 over Test cricket, with the board opting to send a third-string side to the two-Test series in New Zealand next month.
Conrad said that it was ‘unfortunate’ that South Africa had to do what they did but asserted that their hand had been forced. Test cricket in the country, he said, cannot exist without SA20, for the latter is the ‘lifeblood of South African cricket’.
"Our hand has been forced. Everybody understands the SA20 has to happen. SA20 has to happen because it is the lifeblood of South African cricket. If it doesn't happen, we are not going to have Test cricket anyway,” the head coach said.
“We've got to find a way to coexist with the league, we've got to co-exist with leagues around the world to ensure the sustainability of the game.
"It's unfortunate (scheduling mix-up) but we all saw the value of the league last year."
Addressing the squad that was picked, Conrad said that the coaching staff used the ‘A’ series against West Indies last month as preparation for the New Zealand Tests. Neil Brand, who led South Africa ‘A’ in the unofficial Tests against West Indies ‘A’, will incidentally be skippering the side (on debut) in New Zealand next month.
"What we've done is that I used the A side tour against West Indies as part of the prep. We are going to be leaving for New Zealand a few days earlier, so that we can prepare there," Conrad said.
The South Africa head coach said that it’s ‘unfortunate’ that his side will go to New Zealand as underdogs, but insisted that they will do everything within their power to get a result from the two-Test series.
"It's still South Africa that's going there. We don't sing a different national anthem. We don't wear a different blazer or anything like that. We are going to give it our best shot," he said.
"I hate the fact that South Africa go as underdogs because I don't think we ever should be underdogs in anything that we do, but we do go as underdogs. Anything that we come back with, whether it is a draw or if we sneak a win, that's going to be massive for us."
The two-Test series will start on February 4th in Mount Maunganui, with the second Test being played in Hamilton from February 13th.