By Qaiser Mohammad Ali
Opening batsman Prithvi Shaw’s legs and bat are reacting late to the ball and that opens up a gap between his bat and pad, and that happens to batsmen when they have too many things going on in their heads or if they are expecting a short delivery, points out maestro Sachin Tendulkar in an exclusive interview with IANS.
Shaw, 21, lasted a total of six balls and managed only four runs, including a nought in the first innings, in the first Test against Australia that India lost by eight wickets well inside three days in Adelaide last Saturday. In their second innings, India were shot out for their lowest innings total in their Test history — 36 runs — beating their previous ‘record’ of 42 made against England in 1974 at Lord’s, London.
Tendulkar, 47, who aggregated 34,357 runs and 100 centuries in 664 international matches, feels it is “not easy to overcome this” as “performances like these stay” with players for a while, but if they infuse a combined dose of “grit, discipline, and planning” into their game, it can help the team perform well, again.
On Ajinkya Rahane, who takes over captaincy from Virat Kohli, who will miss the remaining three Tests as he returned to India to be with his wife for the birth of their first child, Tendulkar said that his fellow Mumbaikar would be up to the task, and that his calm and composed demeanour shouldn’t be mistaken for a weakness.
Part 2 of the interview:
Q: What would be your suggestions to the players on recovering quickly from this (first Test) defeat and re-focus on the upcoming matches?
A: These kinds of performances are a big disappointment, without any doubt. It’s not easy to overcome this and get on with the next game. People might say one bad performance, but performances like these stay with you as players. I’d say that the only way is to fight it out in the next match, do something magnificent that changes your thinking. Only a good performance is going to help you overcome this disappointment. The juices inside your body are also positive after that.
Q: What should be India’s overall strategy for the remaining three Tests, considering we are 0-1 down?
A: The strategy should be simple: you score more runs and don’t allow them to score more than you. One will have to be gritty in the next three Tests. It’s going to be a combination of grit, discipline, and planning. We’ve to plan, then we’ve to show grit, and we should be able to execute our plans.
Q: What would be your advice to the Indians for the rest of the series — should they stick to their routine or tweak their preparation?
A: I would say they should stick to their routine, which has brought them to this level and given them a lot of success. Suddenly, you can’t change all those things. It’s just those finer adjustments that are needed to be successful, otherwise it becomes more and more challenging. And that depends on which part of the world you are playing in.
Q: India would also miss Kohli the batsman and Kohli the captain as he returns to be with his wife for the birth of their first child. Rahane is a different personality — calm and composed. How do you visualise his captaincy under pressure in the remaining three Tests?
A: Ajinkya has led India earlier also, and his calmness doesn’t mean he is not aggressive. Each person has his way of showing aggression. Someone who doesn’t show aggression doesn’t mean he’s not aggressive. Pujara, for example, is very calm and composed; his body language is into the game, focussed. But that doesn’t mean that (Cheteshwar)Pujara is trying any less than anyone else. Each person has his own way of reacting and responding to situations, but I can assure you everyone’s destination is one; they’ve different routes to get there — and that is how they can make India win. So, Ajinkya’s would be a different style, different strategies. That is up to the team management — how they plan, how the pitch plays, and what our batting and bowling line-ups would be. All those things come into play. They will do everything to try and win. Absence of seniors does affect the balance of a team, but that gives opportunities to someone else. Overall, it is about Team India and not about individuals. Individuals can get injured and be ruled out of the series, but Team India will always be there.
Q: Rahane has struggled with the swing, even in the IPL. Do you think it has affected him and how can he overcome that?
A: He is an experienced player, has been around for a long time, travelled well, and scored runs abroad. It’s just a matter of spending time, staying committed to what he wants to do. I feel he has that capability to soak in the pressure; he can. The only thing I would like to see in his batting is a nice, solid front-foot defence, with a good stride forward. That applies to more or less all players; there are no exceptions. When you travel abroad and your front foot is forward and you are defending the ball well then everything else falls in place. Forward defence is like a jigsaw puzzle; if you don’t sort it out at the start the rest will never follow. If the forward defence is not there, bowlers will always smell opportunity.
Q: What is happening with Prithvi Shaw?
A: Prithvi is a talented player but at this point of time I feel his hands are moving away from his body. So, whenever the ball comes back sharply off the seam there is a possibility that, considering how he has got out, bowlers would continue to hope that they have some chance there. His hands need to be closer to his body. His back lift is going from almost fourth slip to gully before coming down — it’s making a full arc, instead of moving back and forth like a pendulum. If the bat comes a fraction late then the ball will find the gap between the bat and pad. I also noticed, he was caught on the move and was a fraction late on the ball. I’d say if he starts preparing a slightly early to play the ball that can also help. Both innings his front foot hadn’t landed when the ball passed him and that can happen to batters when they have too many things going on in their heads or they are expecting a short delivery.
Q: On your 2004 tour of Australia, you chose not to play the cover drive as the Aussies were bowling outside the off stump and you had got out playing that shot. Would you suggest something like that to our batsmen now — to cut out certain shots from their repertoire?
A: I wouldn’t say that now; I don’t want them to start thinking completely differently. Yes, there are going to be ups and downs; and this was a hiccup. I wouldn’t think that a particular player is struggling to do something and he has been dismissed due to that. In 2004, I just felt I was in good form and was batting well. It’s just that I had to be disciplined with my shot selection. My brother, Ajit, threw a challenge to me. He said he didn’t think that bowlers were getting me out, but that I was getting out playing loose shots. He said there was no technical flaw, and told me to plan my innings and be more disciplined in my shot selection. I had taken that challenge and said to myself: ‘I’m going to remain not out; nobody is going to get me out in this Test (Sydney).’ In both innings I stayed not out (241 not out and 60 not out). I had decided to stay not out, but when I batted and realised that the Australians were bowling way outside the off stump and frustrating me, that is when, in the middle, I decided: ‘okay if you are bowling away from me — hoping that I’d play the big cover drive — and frustrate me, I will not. It’s your patience versus mine. I’ll continue to leave the ball till the time you come back to me’. Nothing was planned; it was on the pitch that I decided to do this — I decided that I’ll not play the cover drive. I scored 301 in the whole match, and I didn’t hit a single boundary off the cover drive. But I wouldn’t say that players have to think like that right now, and if they are clear about their game plan that’s going to help.
Q: How much would India miss Mohammad Shami, who has been ruled out of the series with a fracture?
A: India will 100 per cent miss Shami. He has been one of the leading bowlers, without a doubt. He’s really done well in the past and he’s an important element of our bowling attack; one of the spearheads. Along with (Jasprit) Bumrah, he was the preferred choice and one was only looking at the third seamer for the first Test.
Q: What would you suggest to our batsmen in Australia — and also those in India — on how to get used to playing the pink ball as that is likely going to be the norm, going forward?
A: I feel 90 per cent Test cricket is played with red ball, so the solution is to practice more and play more matches with the pink ball as and when possible.
Q: Would you say if, say, Duleep Trophy, or a few Ranji Trophy matches, are played with the pink ball, it would help?
A: Basically, we have played just one Test match in this series with the pink ball. So, it is 25 per cent that was played with the pink while 75 per cent will be played with the red ball. So, we have to find a balance between the two coloured balls. As of now, around the world, possibly 90 per cent, or even more, of Test cricket is played with red ball. So, one would stick to the red ball right and when the changes are made then one can think differently.
Q: Much has been written and said about the Rohit Sharma issue. He is now in quarantine in Australia. Do you feel with a little bit more transparency and better communication all this could have been avoided?
A: I was not involved in this matter. I don’t know what communication took place and what transpired out of their phone calls. There were multiple things said which indicated that there was a lack of communication. But I know that Rohit is now in Australia and if he’s fit and meets all parameters then he should play. Simple.