Cricket

Ban vs Ind 2nd Test – KL Rahul


India’s stand-in captain KL Rahul admitted they missed Kuldeep Yadav but didn’t regret the decision of leaving him out for an extra fast bowler because a team is selected for all five days and they felt three fast bowlers was the right balance for the conditions in Mirpur.

Of the 36 wickets that bowlers took in the Test (one was a run-out), only 11 went to quick bowlers with spinners taking 25. In the second innings, Bangladesh managed to score more than they did in the first, putting India under extreme pressure with their three spinners in the fourth innings. Leaving out Kuldeep, the Player of the Match in the last Test, was a topic of heated debate in the first innings, and it only raged further in the second.

Rahul was asked about the selection post the narrow three-wicket win. “If we had Impact Player rule here like in the IPL, I would have loved to have Kuldeep in the second innings,” he said. “It was a tough call [on the first morning], knowing and understanding that he had just won the Test for us. But seeing the pitch before the game and on the first day, we felt that there will be assistance for both fast bowlers and spinners. Keeping that in mind we wanted to play the best balanced team we can. And that’s the call we made.

“I don’t regret that, and that was the right decision. If you see the 20 wickets we took, a lot of wickets [ten] even the fast bowlers took. They had a lot of assistance and there was a lot of inconsistent bounce. All these decisions we took keeping in mind the experience of playing here [Mirpur] in the ODIs. We played two [ODIs] here and we saw that there was assistance for both spin and fast bowlers. Understanding that a Test match goes on for four or five days, you need to have both. You need a balanced attack, and I feel it was the right call.”

This selection can be debated, but there is no debate – at least in terms of numbers – that India’s top four have been struggling against spin for a while. For the second World Test Championship cycle in a row, India go into the final series needing three out of four wins at home. Having lost just two Tests in the last ten years at home, India should still be the favourites, but even the biggest fans of the team are not so sure of their batting, especially against spin.

“Whatever the conditions, whether it’s seaming or turning, at the end of the day, batsmen will get out,” Rahul said when asked about the shakiness against spin. “If the pitch assists spinners, you will get out to spinners. If it assists seamers, you will get out to seamers. We don’t really think so much that we are only getting out to spinners or only to fast bowlers.

“If it is a pattern, you will work with your coaches and do the homework to see where things are wrong and correct them. Like you said we have four important Test matches coming up against Australia at home. Pitches, I am guessing, will be very similar to how we have played here. There will be a bit of assistance for spin, and that’s something of a challenge for us batters as to how early we can adapt. Each player is different and has to find his own way. You trust the individual to make that choice.

“Australia will come prepared. They will study the conditions, the pitches. You try to give your best and after that whatever happens is in nobody’s control. You accept whatever comes. Preparations and hard work are in our hands. You will never be perfect. Even if we play just spin for the next one month, it doesn’t guarantee that against Australia we will make hundreds in every match. You just prepare with the right mindset, how hungry are you to perform for the team and that’s important. It’s exciting. The mistakes we have done here, the experiences we have had here will be handy. You go back and have that little bit of time to work on them.”

Each individual is different, but Rahul and Virat Kohli are under a bit of extra pressure because of their recent form. Rahul was asked how prudent it would be to go straight into a high-stakes Test series and try to turn the tide there.

“We obviously don’t go into the game thinking of what we may have done previously or what might happen next,” he said. “We want to give it our best. Every opportunity we are going to get, we will grab with both hands. Obviously after playing a few Tests and after being recognised as one of… when the team is looking at you to perform and get through you have that responsibility. That is what is going on in your mind. You want to give it your best. That never changes, whatever format it is, you want to perform for your team, for your country, play your role and do the best you can.

“Sometimes it doesn’t happen. I have seen a bit of ups and downs in whatever little cricket I have played and I know that neither of the things lasts too long. You have to keep looking forward and keep trying to get better, improve your skill and just keep looking forward to your next challenge. It is obviously, when you are playing all three formats, a bit tricky to just jump from one to the other.

“Personally I haven’t played Test cricket in some time now and it takes a bit of time to get back into the groove and understand and get your mind back to the things you were doing right when you were playing well. That’s the challenge of playing at this level and any format that you play; each format is a challenge on how quickly you can adapt and take your mind back to the right things to do. That’s something that excites me. Yeah, performances in this series haven’t been great. I can accept that. I tried my best and it didn’t work. But I always look forward and see what I can do better next time.”

Looking back, though, Rahul looked at the tour of Bangladesh with satisfaction. “Really good series. A lot of good experiences, a lot of learnings, losing the ODI series was not the greatest. But sometimes a series loss does teach you a lot about where you stand as a team and as individuals. That is really important for us going into a 50-over World Cup.

“Even the Test series, it was hard fought. Bangladesh really played some very very good cricket. They challenged us a lot, even today. The best way to end the series. They made it really hard and they were in the game for the first 30-32 overs and then [R] Ashwin and Shreyas [Iyer] put their hands up and did the job for us. It has been a brilliant tour. The next time when we come back here, whoever has played here will take the learnings and come better prepared.”

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo



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