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'The pressure is back on India' - Manjrekar
Sanjay Manjrekar looks back on the action in the first Test between India and New Zealand in Ahmedabad (08:00)
November 6, 2010
Related Links » Players/Officials: Rahul Dravid | Sanjay Manjrekar | Jesse Ryder | Daniel Vettori | Kane Williamson Matches: India v New Zealand at Ahmedabad Series/Tournaments: New Zealand tour of India [Nov 2010] Teams: India | New Zealand
India v New Zealand, 1st Test, Ahmedabad, 3rd day
'The pressure is back on India' - ManjrekarNovember 6, 2010
Siddhartha Talya: Hello and welcome to ESPNcricinfo. I'm Siddhartha Talya and joining me is Sanjay Manjrekar to review the action from the first Test between India and New Zealand in Ahmedabad. Sanjay, not quite the one-sided contest that many would have predicted before the series or even at the end of the first day. New Zealand have fought back pretty well, first to bowl out India on the second day and putting up a strong resistance on the third with the bat.
Sanjay Manjrekar: Yes. This game keeps surprising you ever so often. You come out with these predictions and expect certain things to happen, and this wonderful game keeps reminding you that you cannot take things for granted. Historically, New Zealand have always had the reputation of being a team that punches above its weight, but even their most optimistic cricket fan would have been surprised by their performance so far. They have been tremendous.
ST: The senior members of the New Zealand side were criticised quite a bit for their failure in Bangladesh, where they were beaten 0-4 in an ODI series. But today Ross Taylor and Brendon McCullum hit half-centuries and Jesse Ryder led the way with his third Test century against India.
SM: If I have to find some reasons for their performances against Bangladesh viz a viz their performance in this Test so far, is that playing in India has become a big deal for all players. It gets a lot of attention and there are some obvious benefits also if you play well in India. Maybe that was the motivation this team needed. Bangladesh can be quite a lonely place, and Bangladesh at home has become a pretty tough side. And they were the kind of mistakes that you make in warm-up matches before the actual series so they made all the mistakes in Bangladesh and have been a better team here. The crucial contribution came from Taylor and McCullum in the morning session because that was the session that was really important. Right through this Test match you'll see that in the morning session there is at least something for the spinners. After that it becomes a really slow pitch and it's going to be tough for the spinners because of the slow spin and pace of the pitch. Those contributions from McCullum and Taylor were very important and once that was done, Ryder and the young Kane Williamson did a terrific job.
ST: Speaking of Williamson, he has looked pretty good in his first Test and he also has an ODI century to his name. Do you see him as a long-term prospect for New Zealand.
SM: It's actually something I have written in my article as well. We saw Cheteshwar Pujara bat so well against Australia a couple of weeks back, another debutant, and now Williamson against India. Both are looking the classical, technically sound batsmen of the eighties and the nineties and it was not surprising to see those kind of batsmen then because the culture of cricket was more about Test cricket, not so much about limited-overs cricket. Now, in this era, when we have excessive limited-overs cricket, T20s as well, the fact that you keep seeing talent like Williamson and Pujara, with their styles of batting, is heartening apart from being intriguing as well.
ST: Is there anything more the Indians could have done today in terms of strategy to put more pressure on New Zealand? Ryder was dropped when he was on 11, Williamson survived a caught-behind appeal off Zaheer Khan. Could the spinners have been more threatening?
SM: There was no reverse-swing of any note so Zaheer wasn't as threatening as he was against Australia in Mohali, where it made him a dangerous bowler with the old ball. If we get some reverse-swing then Zaheer Khan comes into play and MS Dhoni has more potency in his attack. As for Indian spinners, this is the way they generally bowl. They are reluctant to bowl the driving length. Ross Taylor drove a full-pitched delivery straight to the fielder. That kind of length has to be bowled more often especially on pitches like these where a good-length ball can be played off the back foot, the batsmen can watch it off the pitch and there's so much time to react. Pragyan Ojha, when he beat the bat outside the off stump, was in the morning when there was a bit of byte in the pitch and the ball turned sharply. As the pitch gets exposed to the sun it gets a lot more dusty, a lot slower. That's when the length of the bowlers, especially the spinners, has to start getting fuller to get the batsman to drive more often. But it's something that India doesn't quite do as much as I would like, so they prefer to play the waiting game.
|"Players like Sehwag, Tendulkar and Laxman do not quite enjoy slow pitches. The pressure is back on India to bat really well in the second innings because this pitch is not the kind their batsmen like to bat on."|
ST: How would you compare this track in Motera to the one that served up a high-scoring draw against Sri Lanka last year. It stayed a little low and slow and even the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman, on the first and the second day, could not force the pace much.
SM: It's one of the slowest pitches I've seen for a long time. This is the thing about the red soil, the kind we have in the western parts of India, including at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. If you prepare a flat pitch there is some help for the seamers on the first morning and there is some byte for the spinners, interestingly on day two and three. But if the batsmen survive then the soil becomes dusty and the pace becomes so slow that the batsmen are able to negotiate the bowling in the second innings quite easily. And this seems to be that kind of a pitch. I've not had a close look at it but judging from the pictures we have seen, and watching the match from a distance, you get this feeling that the pitch will get slower and the batsmen should be able to manage. Survival is not going to be a problem, maybe run-making would be.
ST: If we could just rewind to the events on the first day. Rahul Dravid's performances have been under scrutiny over the last few months and that century as well as a big stand with Virender Sehwag must come as a big relief.
SM: The score must be a huge relief. You can see he is very hard on himself and sets very high standards. The pure quality of the innings would not give him too much of confidence but just the fact that he's got it at this stage of his career - an ageing player is under more pressure than a young batsman to keep scoring runs and keep getting the big scores. So that big score would make him relax and a bit. And maybe that innings wasn't top class but that performance and that knowledge of a century in his previous innings will make him a different batsman in the innings after this.
ST: A word on the New Zealand bowling attack...Daniel Vettori led the way again but how do the others look? Chris Martin is playing his first Test series in India, Hamish Bennett has a bit more pace while Jeetan Patel managed to pick up three wickets. Going forward, does this look like a bowling line-up capable of winning Test matches?
SM: It doesn't look that way. The seamers still don't look the part. Patel, although he got three wickets, he's not the kind of bowler the Indians will be too worried about. Vettori has become more of a containment bowler and you could see that he was getting the ball to come into the right hander more than spinning it away. It's not an attack that looks like it'll get 20 wickets.
ST: And finally, where do you see this Test match heading now? Any promising signs in the pitch at all for the possibility of a result?
SM: The Indians have to bat well now. New Zealand have come close to India's first-innings score and because of the slowness of the pitch, some Indian batsmen are not going to like playing on it in the second innings. It's going to get even slower. Players like Sehwag, Tendulkar and Laxman do not quite enjoy slow pitches. The pressure is back on India to bat really well in the second innings because this pitch is not the kind their batsmen like to bat on.
ST: Thanks a lot Sanjay for sharing your thoughts. That's all we have for today's show. Until the next time, it's goodbye.
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