Rajkot may have just been hosting it’s first Test but Indian Test captain Virat Kohli, like many observers, were surprised with the nature of the pitch. While losing the toss and dropping catches didn’t help, Kohli believed that the amount of the grass on the pitch was excessive but admitted that wasn’t the reason why India played three spinners.
In a game that saw nearly 1,500 runs being scored over the space of five days which produced just 29 wickets, it is fair to say that the pitch at Rajkot didn’t resemble the ones produced for the previous two home series against South Africa and New Zealand.
Speaking about the pitch for the first Test Kohli admitted he was “quite surprised to see that much grass” before he added that it shouldn’t have been the case. But when pressed about the reason for picking five bowlers in the post-match press conference, Kohli admitted that the nature of the pitch didn’t play a part in that decision.
“I thought Ashwin was batting really well, he has scored a lot of runs for us this year, so has [Wriddhiman] Saha. Those two are confident,” he said. “Plus [it is] Jadeja's home ground, so we backed him to get a few runs for us. That gave an opportunity to play [Amit] Mishra, an extra spinner. So at least, we had all our bases covered.”
The 28-year-old was quick to add that despite the decision to play five bowlers, India still got close to 500 and weren’t too far away from getting the lead, even if victory was beyond them in the second innings, where they were chasing 310 in 49 overs.
“Again, it gives us belief as a batting unit. So, going ahead, we can still play an extra bowling option and keep putting pressure on the opposition. It was something you can look forward to or feel that you don't have an extra batsman and go into a negative mindset. I think the guys applied themselves very well,” he added.
Kohli speaks about the Rajkot pitch
At a stadium which had an average first innings score of 397 in first-class cricket before the start of this game, bat was always supposed to dominate ball but the way in which the batsmen continued to dominate even on the final day was certainly surprising.
“We saw from day three onwards, the last hour, the ball did quite a bit for the spinners. That stayed consistent on Days 3, 4 and 5. I don't think it was similar throughout the day. The odd ball bounced in between and you had to pitch the ball in the right areas as spinners to get purchase from day three onwards,” the Indian captain said.
Kohli admitted though that the first two days were “really good” to bat on as was evident from the fact that England managed to put on a massive first innings total and 600 runs were scored on the first two days for the loss of just 10 wickets, which is almost unheard of, in recent times in Tests in India.
“Day three onwards, it slowed down a little bit but no demons as such. Sometimes, the situation becomes such that even on flat wickets, you tend to make mistakes. It looks that it is doing a lot more than it is actually out there.
“And, someone who is out there playing will understand how much the ball was doing. Because, I spent decent time out there and I knew that it is because we lost four-five wickets that it looks like it's going to rip through from a good-length area. That was not the case. The wicket was pretty decent throughout the game.”
Going forward, Kohli will be hoping for better pitches, which at least offer some assistance to the spinners and from the evidence of the final ODI against New Zealand at Vizag, the next Test will certainly offer plenty of assistance to the spinners.