Virat Kohli’s Test team discovered two seasons ago that no matter how well you do at home, it will have to be done without the asterisk against the results, due to the nature of the pitch.
After skipper Kohli and then team director, Ravi Shastri, were left seething following criticism of the rank turners laid out for the Test series against South Africa in late 2015, which India won 3-0, normalcy seemed to have been restored.
India reeled off victories in eight of the first nine Tests they played in this home season before facing Australia. Those wins were achieved on pitches that were typically sub-continent, slow and good for batting on the first two days before gradual deterioration brought spinners into play.
TIME FOR INDIA TO LOOK AHEAD
After the three-day humiliation in the first Test in Pune against Steve Smith’s Australia, it was coach Anil Kumble’s turn on Thursday to be left irritated as questions flew about the pitch for the second Test starting at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium, the home ground of India’s leading Test wickettaker.
“I don’t know much about the Chinnaswamy stadium wicket,” the leg spin great smiled at the outset, during a media conference. “It is generally a batting wicket. I hope it will be a result wicket. That is what we want.”
Reports from Pune suggested it was the team management that insisted on rank turner at a venue known for seaming pitches. The ICC has rated the Pune pitch ‘poor’, and the former Maharashtra Cricket Association president and BCCI secretary, Ajay Shirke, has called for CBI probe into ‘pitch fixing’.
Kumble insisted the 333-run loss was a thing of the past. “We don’t want to look back, we want to look ahead. It was one of those games where things didn’t go our way.
INDIA TEAM UNDER FOCUS
“We have had a fantastic home season. It is more important to me as a coach, it is important to look ahead. It (the Pune Test) is done and dusted. The Aussies played well, we didn’t, we didn’t adapt well.”
After the media conference, Kumble spent considerable time with the groundsmen, assessing the pitch conditions. The grass on the surface, which streaked like green veins on the pitch, was being shaved off on Thursday afternoon.
Along with the pitch, there is plenty of focus on the team composition. After India were bundled out for 105 and 107, lasting just 74 overs to make it their lowest total in a Test with both innings completed at home, the big question is whether India can afford to play only five bowlers.
DEBATE ON INDIA’S FIVE-BOWLER POLICY
Anil Kumble said there was no doubts Ajinkya Rahane will play in Bangalore. However, Karun Nair, a local player, who hit an unbeaten 303 in the final Test against England in Chennai in December but has sat out the next two matches India have played, will hope to get a look in if skipper Virat Kohli and the coach revisit their five-bowler theory.
However, the place of second off-spinner Jayant Yadav, who played as the third spinner in the Pune Test, has been questioned after he failed to impress. Pace bowler Ishant Sharma is the other bowler who is under some pressure to keep his place.
Kumble said the important thing was what provided balance to the team, adding: “Our aim is to win every game.”
The pitch debate has left India in a no-win situation.
However, Anil Kumble is not too bothered. “There was talk during my playing days that you (I) can only bowl on one kind of pitch. It didn’t bother me then, it doesn’t bother me now.”