Team India hitting coach Vikram Rathour acknowledged the complexity of the conditions at Southampton and insisted his team would be more than happy if they managed to score a total of more than 250 in the first innings. India finished Day 1 at 146/3, with Kohli and Rahane batting undefeated.
As England discovered not long ago, there are few tasks more difficult in world cricket than facing New Zealand’s attack on a Dukes ball. But as if this challenge wasn’t tough enough, India on Saturday had to do the same in cloudy and overcast conditions, giving the players all the help they needed.
Many feared the worst when India lost the draw, but what followed was a show of discipline and stamina by Virat Kohli’s men, who worked incredibly hard to finish the day at 146/3. At one point, Kiwi bowlers, who were off the radar at first, found more swing than ever in the last 15 years, but India’s discipline meant there would be no collapse at any time of the day.
Taking the conditions into account, India’s hitting coach Vikram Rathour said at the end of the day’s play that anything over 250 would be a competitive total.
“We would like to score as many runs as possible, but more than 250 would be a reasonable score under these conditions,” Rathour said at the press conference at the end of the day.
India got off to a dream start, not losing ground for the first 20 overs, but after the starters passed away, there was an opening for the Kiwis at 88/3 when Trent Boult caught Cheteshwar Pujara up front. However, the skipper and vice-skipper made sure to keep the kiwis at bay, fighting despite the incredibly harsh conditions. Rathour praised the experienced duo and the former for keeping India in the lead for the day.
“Hats off to Virat and Rahane for the way they hit, but a lot of credit should also go to the first.”
The Kiwis were unusually erratic in the first hour of the game, with the new ball, but they recovered after the initial hesitation, bowling with impeccable precision for the rest of the day. Hitting, in fact, became progressively difficult as the day progressed, and Rathour insisted that the Dukes’ ball began to sway more as he aged.
“I think when the ball got a little bit old it started rocking more. Also the New Zealand pacemakers hit good areas during the second session.”
One hitter who looked shaky from the first ball was Pujara, and the fact that he eventually died did not surprise anyone. In addition to being hit on the head by Wagner, Pujara was undecided during his tenure in the middle, and extended his record below par in England. Rathour, however, dismissed suggestions that Pujara faces technical problems and insisted the batter looked solid during his stay.
“We’re not really worried and he’s a good player. I don’t think rhythm is a problem for him. Until he hit, he looked solid and he has a role to play in the team.
“He also played 50 odd balls today. He just needs to convert those starts. It’s going to happen very soon.”