The former captains present on the opening day of the country’s 500th Test at Kanpur would have winced at seeing the Indian batsmen struggle against spin at home.
Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi and Mark Craig are no Bishan Singh Bedi, B Chandrasekhar or Erapalli Prasanna, but, New Zealand’s three-pronged spin attack troubled the batsmen enough to sour the Indian stalwarts’ visit.
Doubts were expressed ahead of the series about the waning ability of Virat Kohli’s men to negotiate spin and their first innings performance didn’t evoke confidence.
Dilip Vengsarkar, who first made headlines for his 110 runs against Bedi and Prasanna in an Irani Trophy game at Nagpur, said a solid defensive technique was the key in playing spin.
“Playing attacking strokes is looking for an easy route, your defensive technique is very important (in playing on subcontinent wickets), how to play late and keep the ball down,” said Vengsarkar, who was felicitated along with other former skippers at the Green Park.
Citing golf as an example, he added: “The drive is easier than chipping and putting.”
Most frustrating was Rohit Sharma’s case, who again threw away his wicket after getting his eye in. The Mumbai batsman tried an audacious shot against left-arm spinner Santner to gift his wicket on 35.
“Rohit has to get his shot selection right. When you get out to a big shot in a Test match, the mistake gets magnified. In limited-overs cricket, if you connect well, it’s seen as part of the game. Rohit has to learn to convert his starts into big scores.”
Vengsarkar was a master in subcontinent conditions and averaged 55.60 with 13 hundreds at home against his overall average of 42.13.
The former India middle-order batsman said his generation’s ability to counter spin well came because of regularly playing domestic cricket. “Most of the batsmen in the current team would have played only one or two first-class games in India in the last five-six years. Unless they play on spinning wickets against local spinners on a consistent basis, their technique against spin will not get better.”
To rub salt in India’s wounds, the New Zealand top order had negotiated the hosts’ spinners confidently on Friday. However, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja struck early on Saturday with three wickets to get India back in the game.