By Khurram Habib
Ahmedabad, Former India batsman Anshuman Gaekwad was considered a ‘wall’ during his playing days for his ability to bat with patience and determination, be at Sabina Park in Jamaica against a furious West Indies pace attack, or against Pakistan on a Jallandhar pitch where batting was difficult.
Gaekwad, also a former India coach and chief selector, spoke to IANS on the second and third India-England Tests, played in Chennai and Morera, in which batsmen struggled. It came as no surprise that a lack of patience — a quality that Gaekwad oozed at the crease — disappointed him.
How do you play on pitches like the one in Motera, Ahmedabad?
Never play for turn on such wickets. On a good wicket, you can pick a line and put your bat there, the ball will come and hit your bat straight. But here, when you are not sure if the ball will come straight or turn, it is always good to play for a straight ball because even if it turns, then you will most likely get only beaten. But if you play for the turn, then you are leaving a big void between bat and pad. Also, you don’t push the bat towards the ball. Keep it close to the pad. Don’t take it away from your body. If you do, you will end up in trouble. Do you think the batting was poor in the third Test in Motera?
Both sides’ batsmen batted extremely poorly. All those who got out, according to me, they got themselves out. Those were not wicket-taking balls. They got out playing bad shots. In the last [third] Test match, if you see, out of 30 wickets, 21-22 fell to straight balls. You saw all the top batsmen stretching but not fully. On a turning track, you have to stretch full because that way you can cut down on the spin. You don’t let it turn. If you get close to the ball, you don’t let it turn. Picking the line is very important. You don’t go across or go away from the line.
How tough is sweeping on these wickets?
It all depends on how good you are at sweeping. Normally, you sweep the ball which is outside the off-stump or outside the leg-stump. If you sweep a straight ball, the moment you miss you are gone. Your judgement has to be very, very perfect as far as sweeping is concerned.
On such tracks not just sweeping but also playing a cover drive, a square drive, late cut, on-drive, everything has to be precise. If you are in doubt, you just don’t play a shot. Both Indian and English batsmen played predetermined shots, the way they got out. They would come on the front-foot and play for the turn but they left a lot of gap between bat and pad and they got out.
What is the safest shot to play on such surfaces?
You have to wait for the loose ball. If you don’t get it, then try ones and twos, i.e. rotate the strike. I would say that the best way is to rotate the strike. That way you disturb the bowler also. See, bowlers are not bowling machines. They will try something different, bowl a short ball, a half-volley. It is all about patience. You have to tire the bowlers and bat patiently. Make the bowler think and when he makes a mistake, score runs.
What made someone like Rohit Sharma click? He made scoring look so easy.
Rohit got runs because his shot selection was good. He played sweep shots, he played cover drive, he lifted the ball, played square cuts. You have to be very quick while making adjustment for these shots. That can happen only if you are good at reading the line and trajectory of the ball. Then only you will get into a correct position to play a shot. Otherwise, you will get stuck and find scoring difficult. You have to position yourself either to defend, to leave or play a shot. But you have to be quick. You cannot be 50-50.
When in doubt you don’t have to play a shot, you just defend. On such wickets, you can’t play half-cocked. A batsman has to make use of the crease. Space has to be used.
How would you rate the pitch for the third Test?
I don’t think it was a bad wicket. Just because the ball turns, doesn’t mean it is a bad wicket. But I thought the pitch for the second Test was more challenging than the one for the third Test. You could see dust flying. [Even there] Ashwin and Rohit got hundreds. Kohli and Rahane got runs. So, if you play well you can score runs on such wickets.