India’s batting coach Vikram Rathour said that the Indore surface offered more turn than they expected but sympathised with the curators, saying they didn’t get enough time to prepare the pitch after the third Test was shifted here from Dharamsala just before the start of the second Test in Delhi.
The Holkar Stadium turned out to be heaven for Australian spinners as they dismantled the Indian batting line-up, bowling them out for just 109 in 33.2 overs. Left-arm spinner Matthew Kuhnemann scalped five wickets, while Nathan Lyon claimed three. For India, Shubman Gill (21) and Virat Kohli (22) were the only batters to cross the 20-run mark.
"We do prefer to play on turning tracks. That's our strength. To be fair, this is just a one-off wicket. The pitches for the first two Tests were not bad at all. It was drier than we expected. To be fair to the curators, they hardly got time to prepare a pitch. They had Ranji season here, it was pretty late that they decided that the match was being shifted here. I don't think they got enough time to prepare the pitch," Rathour told reporters.
"It was a challenging wicket for sure. It did more than we expected. There was moisture on the surface which made the ball turn sharply. Definitely, we could have scored more runs but I don't think anybody played poor cricket or rash shots. It's just that we had an off day as a batting unit."
In response, Usman Khawaja scored 60 as Australia ended day one with 156/4 on the board, leading by 47 with six wickets in hand. Ravindra Jadeja took all four wickets, while R Ashwin and Axar Patel couldn’t really put enough pressure on Australian batters.
"It felt like that (the pitch changed a bit as the day progressed). I won't be able to comment on that, the guys playing in the middle will be able to give a better idea but it felt that went a little slower. It was not turning as sharply as it was in the morning. That's the only difference. To credit them, I think they bowled really well. They hit the right areas."
Indian skipper Rohit Sharma, Jadeja and Shreyas Iyer all got out while taking the attack to the bowler, while Cheteshwar Pujara was knocked over while trying to score off a ripper from Lyon that turned back sharply from wide of off-stump.
"That was misjudgement in the length. He (Pujara) saw a ball which was outside off stump and expected it to come straighter but it turned. It was a misjudgement which can happen. On Rohit, this is how he bats, he likes to take the game on and score runs. Most days it comes off, today it didn’t," said the batting coach.
Asked, if the batters did deviate from their plans, Rathour said: “Not really. The plan was to trust your defense and wait for the loose balls and score as many as runs you can. It was one of those days when everything you did went into the hands (of fielders). Basically, we just had an off day.
“These are challenging wickets. As a team, we want to play on turning tracks. You need to bat really well to score runs. The batters have done well (in the series). Virat was exceptionally good in the last game, today also he was looking good. Rohit has played a good innings, as well as Jadeja and Axar."
The visitors have already taken a 47-run lead but Rathour isn’t too worried. "Taking a lead is not as big a issue because they will need to bat number four on this surface. Now the challenge is to keep them to as low as possible. We will have to bat well in the second innings.”