Rahul Dravid’s first Test match as India head coach ended in a dramatic draw against New Zealand with the bowlers unable to take just the final wicket at Green Park Stadium in Kanpur on Monday.
India needed nine wickets to win on the final day but could not dislodge the last pair of Rachin Ravindra and Ajaz Patel as the visitors earned a draw after being nearly down and out in the post-tea session.
Dravid commended his spinners for putting up a great show on what he called an unresponsive fifth day track with outside edges not coming into play.
He also backed stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane to find form with the bat soon and praised Player of the Match Shreyas Iyer for his century on debut, adding that the team management is yet to figure out the team composition for the second Test with Virat Kohli coming back in. Speaking about the declaration, Dravid said he was perfectly happy in hindsight with how India timed it as they could not do it any earlier with the batting unit still under pressure.
Excerpts from Dravid’s post-match press conference:
On the Kanpur pitch
We showed great composure and fighting spirit and worked really hard in that final session. It was quite an unresponsive pitch on the fifth day and really good effort to have taken eight wickets after lunch, three in that session and five in last session. With a little bit of luck, it would have gone our way I think, guys really fought hard.
It was low and slow and probably it didn’t have that much bounce or didn’t have turn. Probably, you expect a little bit more wear and tear on fifth day in Indian conditions over the course of five days. This didn’t seem to have that kind of bite.
Generally, in India on day five, spinners can challenge both edges – inside and outside. You know you can beat people on the inside edge and get lbw. But honestly, in this game, the outside edge was virtually ruled out.
Even till the last day, none of the edges carried, very few catches close to the bat, I can’t remember, (KS) Bharat took a couple. It sort of made it feel that there is only one way to get people out, bowled or may be lbw, probably two in last session.
In spite of that we were able to prise out nine wickets (8) on the last day, but it was tough but we expected it to be tough in Kanpur. I have played here and I know wickets can be tough. Usually on day five, you should get bit more help and cracks to widen up a little bit, I don’t know, may be it’s winter and that’s why.
It felt like if you wanted to block, didn’t want to score runs, it got difficult to get people out and we saw that. We have quality guys who were able to make a game out of this and otherwise it would have easily gone on to become a dull draw.
On whether Rahane’s lack of form is worrying
I mean, you don’t get worried. Of course, you would like more runs from Ajinkya, he would like to score more runs himself. He is a quality player and he has done well for India in the past. He is one of those guys who has quality and experience and it’s matter of a game when he would like to turn it around and he knows that and we know that.
On Player of the Match Shreyas Iyer and his spot in the next match
It’s great to see the young guys come through perform straightaway on debut and we saw that with one or two of the players in T20 as well and they made a good account of themselves.
A young kid doing well in first Test for India and it’s not only a good reflection of that person but also a good reflection of the system. Fact that we have been able to develop not just India A but also he has played for Mumbai, in club cricket.
Shreyas had to work very had and had to earn it. It wasn’t easy for him. Of course, he averages over 50 in first-class cricket but he hadn’t played first-class cricket played for three years. He wouldn’t have made it to the XI if we haven’t had injuries or players resting, and he has taken it (opportunity) with both hands and shown his qualities.
Look, we haven’t decided what will be our playing XI and it’s too early. At least, today our focus was on this game and when we go to Mumbai, we will assess the conditions and check people’s fitness. Virat Kohli will join us so we have to discuss with him also and then take a decision.
On Ashwin surpassing Harbhajan becoming India’s third-highest run getter
I think it’s a phenomenal achievement. I think you know Harbhajan Singh was a really fine bowler, someone I played a lot of cricket with; terrific bowler for India and what Ashwin has done, to be able to go past him in just 80 Test matches is a phenomenal achievement.
Ashwin is one of those guys who has been an absolute match-winner for India, even today you saw on this difficult wicket. The way he pulled us back into the game on that third morning, with that spell of 11 overs, was absolutely phenomenal.
And then today just to keep us alive in the game, constantly be threatening on wickets like this is a tribute to his skills and ability.
He has just evolved, he has just kept growing. He is one of those guys who keeps thinking about the game, keeps changing, keeps evolving, that’s why he (has) got where he has. You don’t achieve what Ashwin has achieved without growing and improving and evolving. It is a pleasure to have someone like him in the dressing room and to work (with). I am really happy for him.
With PTI Inputs