Southampton: India batting coach Sanjay Bangar feels Hardik Pandya and Ravichandran Ashwin were guilty of giving away their wickets rather softly in the fourth Test against England in which the team let slip a strong position owing to a middle-order collapse.
Bangar said India could have been in a better position had Pandya and Ashwin applied themselves a little more. India were all out for 273 on Friday in response to England’s 246. “A couple of dismissals were really really soft. Hardik was not really on top of the ball while driving and Ashwin attempted that reverse sweep at a pretty early stage of his innings. Had he been set and been batting with the tail one could have thought that the shot was on,” Bangar said at the end of day’s play.
While Ashwin was dismissed for 1, Pandya got out after adding just four runs to the total. “…at that point in time wherein Pujara was going so well, they could have done those things differently. As professional cricketers, we practice for all we are likely to encounter. Our cricket was prepared for all sorts of eventuality. It was not only about seam bowling, we had also done practice and spoken about how the spin challenge we might encounter,” he added.
Moeen Ali spun England into contention on a fluctuating day with five wickets. At 142 for 2, India were well-placed to build a healthy first-innings lead having bowled England out for 246. But Sam Curran took the vital wicket of Virat Kohli before off-spinner Ali ripped through the middle-order with a stunning spell. Chesteshwar Pujara, however, rose to the occasion as he slammed a majestic ton (132 not out) that gave India a lead of 27 runs. Pujara batted brilliantly with the tail and added close to 80 runs with Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah, when the Indian innings was in tatters.
His effort received praise from Bangar, who said that Pujara’s innings was a great mix of caution and aggression. “Right from the first time he got to bat at Lord’s to the way he batted in Nottingham, he carried that to here. I think he showed a lot of composure, clarity of thought and great discipline, in the judgment outside off-stump as well as the way he executed the shots because you saw a great mix of caution and aggression.
“It showed another facet of his batsmanship. He showed us what the limbs of his body could do when he was batting with the tail. All in all, it could have been a satisfying effort for him.” Asked about the dropping of Pujara in the first Test at Edgbaston, Bangar said, “Birmingham is too much in the past. He was coming off a rough patch and also he hadn’t really scored as many runs as he’d have liked in the last 10-11 innings for India. “He was struggling, certain areas had to be worked on. He had to get his balance right and also had to get his footwork right. Those were the two areas we worked on as a support-staff group — including Ravi (Shastri) and myself. It’s heartening the work he put in was duly rewarded.”
Bangar hoped that Pujara would continue his good form in the series. “Once he gets on a roll, he generally makes sure he carries on in that fashion. His hunger for runs is well-known and he’s known to play long innings. It augurs well for the Indian team. With three innings remaining, if he continues in this fashion, it will put the team in winning positions.” he said. The batting coach also had words of appreciation for Jasprit Bumrah and Ishant Sharma for staying put with Pujara to help India take the lead. “Losing wicket at the stroke of tea was a setback and then again three in a trot in the span of 15 runs we lost four wickets. From a position of strength we were staring at conceding a lead. Credit to Bumrah and Ishant they hung in, negotiated the spinners really well and got us to a decent lead I should say.”