India pacer Mohammad Siraj called the Sydney pitch a batting beauty but said the turn it is offering to spinners has given his side a lot of hope after Australia dominated day one of the third Test on Thursday.
Australia were nicely placed at 166/2 at stumps on day one with Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne looking in fine touch. This was after debutant opener Will Pucovski struck 62 to give Australia a strong platform after a four-hour rain disruption.
“It is very a flat wicket. Our plan was to build pressure and not try too much as it is a very easy wicket for the batsmen. Even the bouncers are not carrying as well it was in the the earlier games,” said Siraj, who made his debut in the previous game.
“But Test cricket is all about patience and we must keep that in mind.”
The odd short balls from the fast bowlers did not trouble the batsmen on the opening day. Trusting the trueness of the pitch, the likes of Smith and Labuschagne were not afraid to even step out against the spinners. But the turn late in the day has given India encouragement for Friday.
“It is because of the easy nature of the surface that their batsmen stepped out but when they saw the ball turning sharply late in the day, they went back to the crease,” said Siraj. “Let’s see what happens tomorrow. The plan is to bowl in one tight channel and build pressure.”
When the Indian national anthem was played out before the start of the game, Siraj got teary-eyed thinking about his father, who died in November. The pacer had stayed back in Australia to fulfill his dream of seeing him play for India.
Asked about Thursday’s emotional moment that was captured on camera, Siraj said: “Just remembered my father at that time. I was really emotional. He wanted to see me play Test cricket. Wish he could see me playing for India.”
On to the match again and Siraj said the bowlers made a conscious effort to send down an odd bouncer to debutant Pucovski, who has suffered from concussion on multiple occasions in his short career.
“Last match (the practice match) we were bowling short to him and in this game also we tried that as he was playing them and not leaving. So, the plan was to surprise him with an odd bouncer without shifting focus on line and length.”
Siraj was also seen talking a lot to fellow pacer Navdeep Saini, who is making his debut in Sydney and did well to dismiss a well-set Pucovski.
“Saini and I have played a lot of matches together for India A, so we bond really well. I was just telling him to do what we did in domestic cricket and India A.”
On wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant dropping two catches to allow Pucvoski to get to his fifty, Siraj said: “It is part of the game and you do get upset as a bowler when it happens. But it is something we can’t do much about. It becomes important to move on and focus on the next over.”
(With inputs from PTI)