Ahead of the four-Test series against Australia, India were faced with a number of questions about their batting unit. Who will the openers be? What will the middle order look like? Will the players adjust to the conditions quickly enough and get the all-important win in the day-night game in Adelaide?
With Virat Kohli playing just one Test, the onus will be on Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara to hold the batting order together in a country where India’s record isn’t really impressive.
Former India cricketer Pravin Amre, who has coached the India Under-19 team, Mumbai’s Ranji Trophy side and been a talent scout for IPL teams Mumbai Indians and Delhi Capitals, apart from having stints as personal batting coach for the likes of Rahane, Suresh Raina and Robin Uthappa, spoke with Scroll.in about the challenges India’s batting unit could face in Australia.
Here are excerpts from the interview:
How confident are you of India’s batting heading into the series?
We all know the bounce in places like Australia and South Africa is a lot different when compared to the subcontinent, but I believe we shouldn’t worry too much about that. Most of the batsmen who will play in the upcoming series were also present in the Indian team during the last tour of Australia. They are used to the pitches and the venues. Of course, it would be difficult for someone who is playing there for the first time, but the majority of our batsmen have experience of doing well in Australia. We won the series two years ago and that confidence will be there in our players.
The best part is that our batsmen also did well in the two warm-up games. Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari and Rishabh Pant got centuries, Wriddhiman Saha played a match-saving innings.
What are the technical adjustments Indian batsmen need to make in Australia?
As a batsman, it’s important to play to your strength. You need to know your run-scoring shots and take advantage. In Australia, one tends to get more runs square of the wicket and their bowlers attack with the fuller deliveries. So playing on the merit of the ball, knowing your strengths and focusing hard on not falling into traps will be crucial.
Making adjustments to your technique and the trigger movement is a very personal thing. From personal experience, I can say that I had made technical adjustments when I got runs in South Africa. I had the forward press while batting in India but in South Africa, I went back and across. Having said that, it all depends from person to person. There’s no set rule. If you’re used to a certain method and confident of doing well then there’s no reason to second guess.
Has the nature of the pitches in Australia changed over the years?
I think there are two reasons why pitches in Australia have become more batting-friendly over the years. Firstly, if the pitch is difficult for batsmen then the match will end early, and we know that they would love a five-day contest. They give Test cricket utmost priority, we’ve seen how their stadiums get full each season. Secondly, over the years our attack has become very good too. So it’s not like only we are worried about their bowlers, so are they. When you look at the 1990s and 2000s, I’m not saying we didn’t have good fast bowlers back then but the consistency now is much better and it’s a great sign for Indian cricket.
Cheteshwar Pujara’s form will once again be crucial. He has struggled at times against the length ball, getting beaten on either side of his bat in front the wickets. Is that a concern?
Pujara is one of our most senior players. Despite whatever weakness he may have in his game, he did score all those runs during the last tour of Australia. Every batsman has areas to work on but if you see Pujara, there are so many positives. His temperament, patience and ability to play the long innings are factors that matter a lot. He has done the job for India in the past and will be confident of doing it again.
Who would you pick in India’s batting order for the first Test?
It all depends on the track on offer at Adelaide. But yes, we do need proper opening batsmen who can give us at least a 50-run start. That has to be a priority. The name of the player isn’t important, we have to pick players who are in form. We need to play that card very smartly because the first Test is going to be critical. The batsmen who get the nod must be in form.