Elgar’s decision did not go as planned, resulting in South Africa being dismissed for 55 runs, their lowest total against India.
Although India initially seemed on track for a substantial lead, they encountered a collapse, losing their last six wickets for no runs and getting all out for 153, thereby limiting their first-innings advantage to 98 runs.
Gavaskar’s surprise likely stems from the unexpected turn of events in the match.
“Well, I tell you what, I was a bit surprised by what happened,” Gavaskar said in his match analysis on Star Sports.
“Because a lot of times, captains and coaches make a big deal about what the pitch is gonna be…”
Gavaskar expressed the opinion that, having dominated India and won the opening Test within three days, South Africa had a perfect opportunity to assert their dominance by inserting India on a fresh pitch in the second Test.
Gavaskar’s view likely reflects the strategic advantage South Africa could have gained by exploiting the conditions and putting India under pressure early in the match. However, the outcome of the match, with both teams facing challenges in their respective innings, may have added an element of unpredictability to the decision-making process.
“I think you’ve also got to look at the psychology of the Indian team, having been defeated in three days, having batted so poorly in the second innings and going to be batting first on a fresh pitch would have been just a little bit defensive,” Gavaskar said.
“And I have thought that South Africans with the fast bowlers that they have in their lineup could look to take advantage of the fact that they have not played any cricket in between and therefore put them in,” he added.
Gavaskar drew a parallel to the Adelaide Test against Australia, where India was bowled out for 36, only to make a remarkable comeback in the subsequent Melbourne Test during the 2020-21 series.
The Adelaide Test was a challenging moment for the Indian team, but they displayed resilience and character to bounce back and eventually secure a memorable 2-1 series triumph.
“Something similar happened in Australia two years ago, Australia dismissed India for 36. The next Test played in Melbourne, where the grass on the pitch was three millimetres more than the one at Adelaide,” he added.
(With PTI inputs)