India ready for West Indies challenge
ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Sensing that the wicket for the first Test against the West Indies beginning Thursday may be left with some grass on it, India batting coach Sanjay Bangar, Tuesday said that the visiting players were prepared to play on both slow and lively pitches.
With just two days left for the match, the wicket at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium took centre-stage today with some fresh grass patches appearing on it. West Indies selector Courtney Walsh has already said he would like to see some grass on the Test match strip.
“We are seeing some grass cover on the pitch now and we won’t be surprised if there is some grass left on the pitch when the match begins. But how much of it remains on surface remains to be seen. We have also prepared keeping in mind that some grassy wickets slow down as the game progresses. So, we are aware of that and have prepared accordingly,” said Bangar.
“We have had very good preparation, both in the camp in Bangalore and in the last two practice matches in St. Kitts. I don’t remember the last time we had got so much time to prepare for a Test series in the past 2-3 years.
“We have prepared for different conditions and situations that we can encounter in a match, and we have discussed our plans and execution. We have tried to work out all angles possible and the time we have had has been very useful in terms of preparation as well as team bonding,” he added.
From a distance, the pitch at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium looks crisp brown, much like wickets in the sub-continent and the patches of grass might just be there to hold the wicket together. As the game progresses, it is likely to become more spin-friendly, something that will suit India just fine with their mix of three high profile spinners.
Even so, there might be an odd worry for the batsmen given their recent track record against spin. In the second practice game at St. Kitts, part-timer Rahkeem Cornwall took five wickets with his off-break bowling, dismissing the likes of Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Stuart Binny and Ravindra Jadeja.
“If a good delivery gets you out, it does not matter whether it is from a spinner or a seamer. We need to accept that and worry about the quality of the delivery instead, whether the ball was a wicket-taking delivery or not. That is something we have discussed. I don’t find an inherent weakness against either spin or seamers for any particular batsmen. It is more to do with the kind of deliveries they get,” said the batting coach.
Asked about the simulations they have put in practice for countering such threats, he replied: “During the camp and in practice matches, we said that if you bat two sessions, you can return. Or, if it was a two-day game if you are happy with the way you have coped and happy with yourself mentally, the batsmen were free to come back.
“And in the nets we generally work a lot on communication and emphasis on strike rotation. That is why we were batting in pairs and making sure we are changing every four or five balls, rotating the strike. So, those are the things we work on during the practice sessions.”
After a hectic workout in the past three weeks, the Indian team had an optional practice session, with only five players -Cheteshwar Pujara, Amit Mishra, Rohit Sharma, Stuart Binny and Lokesh Rahul -showing up.
Given how the playing eleven usually shapes up, a majority of these names are not assured of a spot for the first Test. Not to mention, the presence of grass makes things slightly more interesting in terms of team selection as Bangar played coy with this particular question.
“I think that (playing an extra bowler) is something the coach and the captain will address and they will have discussions with the selectors who are available here on tour. I believe they will be taking the decision and in due time it will be communicated to the team and everyone else,” he said.