India A v Australia A, Chennai July 23, 2015

Rahul relishes 'tough' challenge on slow wicket

KL Rahul - "We came here expecting slow turn, and we were prepared for this, but if we did get a bouncy wicket, it would have been nice" © K Sivaraman

Ahead of Australia A's series against his side, the India A coach Rahul Dravid had made it clear he wanted quick, bouncy pitches. Viewing his role as "someone to develop young players so they can go and perform overseas", Dravid had called for conditions that would test his young batsmen's ability against the Australian fast bowlers.

"If on tracks that have good pace and bounce, if somebody succeeds as a batsman, then we will know these guys are capable of playing at the next level."

Going by those words, the surface at the MA Chidambaram Stadium for the first four-day game will not have pleased Dravid. With the ball barely coming on to the bat, India A's batsmen were engaged in an attritional battle against stump-to-stump bowling on day one. Australia A did not even bother with a slip after lunch on the first day, reckoning edges would not carry that far. Not that the batsmen were rejoicing: with the ball not coming on, they couldn't play their shots for fear of scooping catches to short mid-on or short cover.

KL Rahul, who scored a composed 96 on the first day, said it would have been "nice" to play on a quicker pitch, but maintained that the sluggish surface still posed plenty of challenges.

"As players we were not focusing on what wicket we were going to get," Rahul said, at the end of the second day's play. "Whatever wicket you're going to get, you have to put your best foot forward, make the best use of these conditions. And we know these conditions well.

"We came here expecting slow turn, and we were prepared for this, but if we did get a bouncy wicket, it would have been nice, it would have been a good challenge for us. Not like this is not challenging, this is still challenging, because it's very hot and the wicket is very slow. Outfield is a little heavy, so you have to push yourself as players and physically it is very tough. We're enjoying this."

Still, between the two camps, you would suspect Australia A are happier with how the series is panning out so far - not so much in terms of the match situation, which is nicely balanced, as much as the kind of challenge their players are coming through.

The management has already seen how their players respond to conditions vastly different from anything back home. They must be pleased with the discipline shown by the seamers on the first day, the way the left-arm spinner Steve O'Keefe bounced back from a poor start to finish with six wickets, and the century partnership between Peter Handscomb and Marcus Stoinis late on day two. They may even be thankful to the curator for providing their players such a test of their skill and adaptability.

It has been a test for India A too; It just isn't the test their coach had envisioned.

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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