Ajinkya Rahane optimistic about Christchurch pitch for batsmen

The pitch in Christchurch for the second New Zealand-India Test looks as green as the one that was rolled out for the first Test in Wellington, but India might be expecting life to be a little easier for their batsmen. While there might be a similar amount of seam and swing, especially on the first two days, there are suggestions that the ball might come onto the bat better here than in Wellington, where the surface offered spongy bounce.

“The India A guys played here (an unofficial Test last month) and Hanuma [Vihari, who scored 51 and 100* in that game] was telling us that the wicket was much better,” India vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane said in a press conference on Thursday, two days out from the Test. “There is good pace and bounce on this wicket. We will have to see and assess the conditions very quickly on the first day of the game and play accordingly.”

Virat Kohli had said after the Wellington Test that the batsmen had found it difficult to adjust to the lack of pace on the surface, and Rahane concurred here.

“There was swing and seam in Wellington and I thought the Wellington wicket was a bit soft and driving on it was a bit tough,” he said. “But here I think the wicket is a bit harder and offers good pace and batsmen can play the shots. You have to trust your ability no matter what happens, whether the ball swings or seams.

“You cannot keep thinking about conditions; yes, the conditions matter till a point and after that what matters is how you tackle the conditions and play accordingly.”

At one point, Rahane mentioned the need for India to “forget” what happened in Wellington, where they lost by 10 wickets.

“See, you’ve got to think what mistake you did and then try to rectify that mistake,” he said, when asked to clarify what he meant. “Staying in the present really matters as a batsman. I am saying forgetting because every Test matters a lot because the Test championship is going on.

“It is not all about winning the series because even if we win one Test here, this is a two-match series, and getting those 60 points and we will be far ahead [on the Test Championship table]. That’s why I said forget that Test but learn from that Test as a bowling unit and batting unit and looking forward to the second Test.”

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One of the selection dilemmas facing India going into Christchurch is over their spinner, with R Ashwin bowling fairly well in Wellington but failing to get past single figures with the bat in both innings. The runs Ravindra Jadeja potentially offers at No. 8 could tilt the selection his way, but Rahane said India haven’t deliberated over the issue yet.

“See, we have not taken any such decisions,” he said. “Ashwin had bowled really well in Wellington and he is a quality bowler; Jadeja is also a quality bowler. Yes, it gets a bit tough when we travel as to play whom – Jaddu or Ashwin.

“But I think it is a good sign for the team when we travel outside India because both are quality spinners. But the decision will depend on the condition of the wicket tomorrow and we have to see the thought process of captain and coach and what combination they have in mind for the team. But no decision on them yet.”

After Wellington, Kohli had spoken of the need for the batsmen to be more proactive against New Zealand’s disciplined bowling. Rahane pointed out a few ways in which they could do this.

“You need self-belief as a player and a batsman,” he said. “Even if the pitch is or isn’t doing much you need to showcase to the bowler that I’ve come to counterattack. That doesn’t mean you need to play lots of shots, it may be subtle changes like stepping out or walking down the pitch. If the batsman can show that intent then it puts the doubt in the bowlers’ mind, he has to think how he can adjust.

“On pitches that are damp or seam around, it is important to use the angles. I believe cricket is a game of angles, the better you can use the angles as a bowler or a batsman the greater chance of success. But to change or adjust those angles there are times you need to be instinctive while you are batting.

“It can mean standing on off stump, or standing outside the crease, or staying deep inside the crease – like if it is a pitch for the cut shot then you can stand deeper in the crease. This is the mental side of the game that the batsman and bowlers need to play. For me as a batsman, it is important you show your intent to the bowler; if you stand in one spot then the bowler doesn’t need to change anything. These are small things we have been working on in practice and how to use the crease and the angles. Doesn’t matter how much you practice, you must trust or have the belief to be able to do it in the middle.”

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