Following his side’s nervy, three-wicket win over Bangladesh in second Test on Sunday, a relieved stand-in India skipper KL Rahul said he does not regret omitting spinner Kuldeep Yadav from the squad, adding that three fast bowlers in the playing eleven were right for the conditions in Mirpur.
India defeated Bangladesh by three wickets in a thrilling contest in the second test on Sunday to seal the series 2-0 here at the Shere Bangla National Stadium, Dhaka. “If we had Impact Player rule here like in the IPL, I would have loved to have Kuldeep in the second innings.
It was a tough call [on the first morning], knowing and understanding that he had just won the Test for us. But seeing the pitch before the game and on the first day, we felt that there will be assistance for both fast bowlers and spinners.
Keeping that in mind we wanted to play the best-balanced team we could. And that’s the call we made,” said Rahul in a press conference after the match.
“I do not regret that, and that was the right decision.
If you see the 20 wickets we took, a lot of wickets [ten] fell to fast bowlers. They had a lot of assistance and there was a lot of inconsistent bounce. We took these decisions keeping in mind the experience of playing here [Mirpur] in the ODIs. We played two [ODIs] here and saw that there was assistance for both spinners and fast bowlers.
Given that a Test match is played over four to five days, you need to have both. You need a balanced attack, and I feel it was the right call,” he added.
Statistically though, India did miss Kuldeep’s services on such a spinner-friendly surface.
Of all the 36 wickets that bowlers picked up in the match, 25 were picked by the spinners while 11 were scalped by the quicks. Bangladesh outscored themselves in the second innings and managed to put India under pressure in the fourth innings with help of their three spinners, including Mehidy Hasan Miraz, who took a five-wicket haul.
Under these circumstances during which India had almost lost the match, Kuldeep’s omission will no doubt be a debated topic.
India’s top four batters, including Rahul and star batter Virat Kohli, has been struggling against spin for a while now.
Team India is still in contention for World Test Championship (WTC) finals and they will have to win big against Australia in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy next year. India will be favourites no doubt, having lost only two Tests in the last decade at home. But their batting does not exude the same confidence like it used to.
“Whatever the conditions, whether it is seaming or turning, at the end of the day, batsmen will get out. If the pitch assists spinners, you will get out to spinners. If it assists seamers, you will get out to seamers.
We do not really think that we are only getting out to spinners or fast bowlers,” said Rahul, on being asked about weakness against spin.
KL admitted that pitches during the Border-Gavaskar Trophy will probably be same as the ones India experienced at Mirpur, with spinners getting assistance and creating challenges for India.
“Each player is different and has to find his own way to score runs. You trust the individual to make that choice,” he added.
KL said Australia will come prepared, having studied the pitches and conditions. He added that the onus for practicing and preparing for the Australia series was on his team.
“You will never be perfect. Even if we play just spin for the next one month, it does not guarantee that against Australia, we will make hundreds every match. You just prepare with the right mindset. What’s important is how hungry you are to perform. It is exciting.
The mistakes we made here, the experiences we have had here will come in handy. We can go back and and work on our weaknesses,” the skipper said.
Rahul and Virat in particular are under scrutinty, as they are battling a lean patch.
Though Virat came good in the T20 World Cup and the ODI series against Bangladesh, he has been struggling in the red-ball format.
In six Tests and 11 innnings this year, Virat has scored only 265 runs at an average of 26.50, with one half-century.
While in four Tests and eight innings this year, Rahul has managed only 137 runs at an average of 17.12, with only one half-century. These two will be hoping to turn the tides here against Aussies.
“We obviously do not go into the game thinking of what we may have done previously or what might happen next. We want to give it our best. Every opportunity we are going to get, we will grab with both hands.
Obviously after playing a few Tests and after being recognised as one of… when the team is looking at you to perform and get through you have that responsibility. That is what is going on in your mind.
You want to give it your best. That never changes, whatever format it is, you want to perform for your team, for your country, play your role and do the best you can,” said the skipper.
“Sometimes it doesn’t happen. I have seen a bit of ups and downs in whatever little cricket I have played and I know that neither of the things lasts too long. You have to keep looking forward and keep trying to get better, improve your skills and just keep looking forward to your next challenge.
When you are playing all three formats, it’s a bit tricky to just jump from one to the other.”
“Personally I have not played Test cricket in some time now and it takes a bit of time to get back into the groove and understand and get your mind back to the things you were doing right when you were playing well.
That is the challenge of playing at this level and any format that you play; each format is a challenge and what’s important is how quickly you can adapt and take your mind back to the right things to do.
That is something that excites me. Yeah, the performances in this series have not been great. I can accept that.
I tried my best and it did not work. But I always look forward and see what I can do better next time,” Rahul said.
Reflecting on the Bangladesh tour, the stand-in Test skipper said, “Losing the ODI series was not in our plans.
But sometimes a series loss does teach you a lot about where you stand as a team and as individuals. That is really important for us going into a 50-over World Cup,” he said.
“Even the Test series was hard fought. Bangladesh really played some very very good cricket. They challenged us a lot, even today. The best way was to end the series on a winning note.
They made it really hard and they were in the game for the first 30-32 overs and then, Ashwin and Shreyas put their hands up and did the job for us. It has been a brilliant tour. The next time we come here, we will take the learnings from the tour and be better prepared,” said Rahul.
With the series win over Bangladesh, India consolidated their position on the the ICC World Test Championship points table.
India soared to No.2 on the World Test Championship standings following following the series victory over Bangladesh, leap-frogging South Africa which lost to Australia in the opening Brisbane Test, of the ongoing red-ball series, last week.
The victory in Mirpur saw India claim the second position in the ICC Test Championship points table, with their win-percentage improving from 55.77 to 58.93.
Australia are top of the table while South Africa (54.55 per cent) and Sri Lanka (53.33 per cent) are right behind India at No.3 and 4 respectively.
Ravichandran Ashwin was declared the ‘Player of the Match’ for his match-winning knock in the second innings and six wickets overall, including a four-fer in Bangladesh’ first innings.
Cheteshwar Pujara was named the ‘Player of the Series’ with 222 runs which included a century and a half-century.
Brief Scores: Bangladesh 227/10 and 231/10 (Litton Das 73, Zakir Hasan 51; Axar Patel 3-68) vs India 314/10 and 145/7 (Ravichandran Ashwin 42*, Axar Patel 34; Mehidy Hasan Miraz 5-63).