Prior to the Eden Gardens Test, Virat Kohli talked about embracing the difficult challenges by putting themselves in uncomfortable positions in order to improve their individual games.
Well, by opting for a lush green wicket for the series opener against Sri Lanka, the Indian team has done exactly what the captain had wished for. However, following a rain-curtailed 71-ball Day 1 in Kolkata, in which the hosts have lost 3 for 17, we have to say, the opening sequence of this courageous trial hasn’t gone their way.
Meanwhile, this was not the first time the top-order of this Indian team lacked solidity, especially when the wicket had some assistance for the pace bowlers. Last time when India played a Test match in Kolkata back in September 2016 on a similar sort of wicket, they were reduced to 46-3 in the first innings, and 43-4 in the second. Before that, the boys faced similar sort of problems in their 2014 tour of England, where on seamer-friendly conditions, dealing with the new-ball proved to be a daunting task for the Indian batting.
Yes, for any batsman, on a seaming wicket, negotiating the new ball is regarded as one of the toughest jobs in the game of cricket. But in order to be the best in the business, you have to overcome these challenges. And that’s exactly what the Indians are trying to do before next year’s overseas tour to South Africa, England and Australia.
Whether the Indian team management agree or not, but it is quite clear from their approach that the Virat Kohli and Co. are looking at this three-Test series against Sri Lanka as a dress rehearsal for the all-important South Africa tour. By leaving a significant amount of grass on the Eden pitch they wanted to provide their batsmen a feel of the rainbow nation. Furthermore, after losing the toss, they were invited to bat under the toughest conditions in the game.
On the hindsight, raising the eyebrows of many, the think-tank gave Shikhar Dhawan and go as a partner of KL Rahul at the top, ahead of a fit Murli Vijay, who one believes is more equipped to handle a green track.
Well, under these circumstances, ideally, India would have liked their top-order to spend a significant amount of time on that pitch.
But Suranga Lakmal with his brutal spell of 6-6-0-3, had some other ideas. He was at the mark right from the first ball of the match, in which he got rid of Rahul with a perfect out-swinger, an opener’s nightmare. Here one just can’t blame the batman.
Lakmal was wise enough to hit the right areas consistently. The pacer bowled full and allowed the pitch to do its tricks. At one point of time the Sri Lankan skipper placed four slips and two gullies for him and the bowler did not disappoint him at all.
On the hindsight, on such a track, in which you are not sure which way the ball will move, the common survival tactic for any batsman should be patience. One has to curb his natural game and respect the condition to play according to the situation. Unfortunately, the “stroke player” Dhawan failed to do so.
On a damp, green track, when the left-hander should have played close to his body and tried to leave as many deliveries as possible, Dhawan went for a lose cover drive and was eventually played on. Skipper Kohli too looked vulnerable and failed to open his account, getting out leg before wicket to an inswinger.
In fact, each of the three Indian batsmen to be dismissed was undone by late movement and India’s best performer of the day, Cheteshwar Pujara (8 off 43 balls), too was fortunate to still out there and live to fight another day along with Ajinkya Rahane.