India batting coach Sanjay Bangar on Thursday said the stop-start first day of the first cricket Test against Sri Lanka, with only 11.5 overs of play possible due to rain, felt like a day-night match and hampered the batsmen’s flow.
Pacer Suranga Lakmal, aided by a green top track, returned flawless figures of 6-6-0-3, shaving off the Indian top order. India were 17/3 at stumps after only an hour of play was possible due to rain and bad light.
The likes of Lokesh Rahul (0), Shikhar Dhawan (8) and Virat Kohli (0) struggled against Lakmal’s swing bowling and Cheteshwar Pujara (8 not out) and Ajinkya Rahane (0 not out) remained at the crease at close of play.
“I think the conditions were really tough for batting. And what did not help us was we did not get an extended passage of play wherein you had 15-20 overs bowled at a batsman in a particular fashion so that didn’t allow the batsman to get into any sort of rhythm,” Bangar told reporters at the post-match press conference.
“It was similar to a D/N test match. At times when you play under such circumstances, it gets difficult playing with a red ball. It is more difficult to pick the red ball,” the former India all-rounder said.
The 45-year-old added that patience is the key on this sort of a wicket and the batsmen have to grind out runs here.
“You’ll have to grind out quite a bit because there are going to be a lot of balls which will beat the outside and inside edge of the bat. We need to respect the conditions as a batsman and think about the next ball,” he assessed.
“The best mindset is to forget the previous ball and accept you’re going to get beaten on a number of occasions. Probably on such sort of a wicket wherein you might not play beautiful shots but you will have to grind it out and take runs. Most of the runs might not be elegant but those are equally important runs.”
Asked about the composition of the team and whether India were a batsman short, Bangar said the likes of Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Wriddhiman Saha and Bhuvneshwar Kumar are good batters and this composition has worked for India previously.
“The team management has believed in going with five batsmen. The quality of the all-rounder we have in Ashwin, Jadeja and Bhuvneshwar Kumar as also Wriddhiman Saha — we think that gives us a lot of depth in the lower order and lot of bowling options as well to pick 20 wickets in a Test match.
“That has worked for us in the last two and half seasons. having won nearly 20 Test matches was mainly because of the composition of the team,” Bangar said.
India are playing Ashwin and Jadeja as the two spinners in this match. Quizzed if that is the right way going forward on this track, Bangar said: “We have got all bases covered. As game goes into four and fifth day, you will also find that because of the dampness of the conditions, there would be dents on the wicket and the game progresses there would be variable bounce.
“So both spinners are vital to us. We have got swing and seam and the pace which we require. We have variety of bowlers and have all bases covered.”
Bangar said India would love to play more on challenging wickets like these.
“We want to challenge ourselves and I think most of the players are open to such challenges. We want to improve and continue doing that as a team. We are very happy to play on such wickets,” he said.
“The last Test match we played after the wicket was relaid here in Kolkata was against New Zealand and it was a similar sort of a wicket so we played that Test really well, applied ourselves and we are ready for the challenge.”
On Lakmal, he said: “He put the ball in the right place. He is an experienced bowler and he put the ball in the right areas, those conditions suited him. Some of the balls that got our batsmen like KL Rahul and Virat Kohli… you can’t fault them for shot selection, those were really really good balls.”
Dhawan played a rash shot to drag the ball onto his stumps in a attempt to drive. Bangar refused to take the southpaw to task for that, saying he is a stroke-player and these things happen.