Never thought I would see another 42 or less: Former India captain Gundappa Viswanath

Former India captain Gundappa Viswanath doesn’t think the 36 at the Adelaide Oval has laid the ghost of the 42 all out at Lord’s in 1974 to rest. For the legendary batsman, it’s always painful to see India getting out for such a low score.

Gundappa Viswanath

I was in the team when we were all out for 42 against England at Lord’s. But I would never say that 36 laid the ghost of that to rest. I can never be happy. I never thought I would see India getting all out for 42 or less again in my lifetime. It doesn’t feel good. But they have to just leave this behind and pull up their socks.

Everything combines when a team gets out for such a low score. All the bowlers will bowl very well, top-order batsmen will get some very good deliveries, and there will not be much resistance from the lower order.

In Adelaide, the pitch became a little quicker on the third day. The Australian bowlers bowled really well, and consistently. The same thing happened at Lord’s. Whenever the batsmen were beaten, the ball took the edge. Compared to Lord’s, where it was cloudy and the ball swung, the Adelaide Oval pitch had a little more bounce but not much lateral or seam movement. All the bowlers kept the batsmen under pressure.

(Cheteshwar) Pujara got one of the best deliveries one could get. He had to play it. Mayank (Agarwal) also. The ball lifted and left him. (Ajinkya) Rahane played from the crease. (Virat) Kohli went after a widish delivery; maybe he was trying to score some quick runs to ease the pressure.

The Indian team have played enough cricket to get this out of their system. There are players in this team who have played 60-70 Tests and even without Kohli, this team has the ability to bounce back. Rahane has captained India before, some years back, and guided the team to victory.

However, some changes become imperative. (Shubman) Gill has to come in place of (Prithvi) Shaw. No two ways about it. (KL) Rahul will come in place of Kohli. I don’t know how bad is (Mohammed) Shami’s injury. Hopefully, he will recover. Rohit (Sharma) is there, but he will be available only for the last two Tests.

You have to come good in the next three Tests. Forget about fancy shots. A lot of application is needed.

India’s catching has been poor. Not only in this Test, but throughout the tour. It cannot happen like that. And they missed some sitters. If all those catches were taken, India would have had a lead in excess of 100. The momentum would have been different. And if they (Australia) had to score 180-190 in the fourth innings, it could have been a different ball game.

I will not say Rahane is struggling or having problems with his technique and footwork. He played very well in the first innings. It’s a question of staying positive all the time.

Getting close to the ball

Everybody has his own way of playing in terms of back-lift, bat-speed, use of the crease etc. You need to adjust according to the delivery, line and length, and a Test player is expected to do that. You can’t (be reliant on) advice in that regard. You can’t leave a gap between bat and pad while playing the ball. You need to play much closer to your body, keeping bat and pad together. You can’t allow the ball to swing. If you are playing forward, go to the pitch of the ball to cover the swing. You can’t play blindly off the front foot or back foot. You have to pick the length early and can’t stay rooted to the crease. Either you go full forward or play off the back foot. Against spinners, you use your footwork to neutralise the turn and bounce.

At Test level, you know how to adjust to the swing, turn and bounce. You are there because you are good enough and should be able to adjust.

I won’t say they (Indian batsmen) are playing with hard hands, because in the first innings, so many deliveries didn’t carry to the wicketkeeper or slips. It means that they played with soft hands. My advice is just that they have to get closer to the ball and must be precise with their footwork.

This is Test cricket. You should analyse your own game. This is not ODIs or T20s. This is five-day cricket and Test matches are not going into the fourth or fifth day. You have a lot of time to stay at the wicket. But this is not only India’s problem. If you see, it is happening with every team. Australia were all out for less than 200 in their first innings. This is due to the fact that teams are not playing enough Test cricket or playing it regularly.

I will not blame the Indian players for not playing Ranji Trophy. They don’t have time. They don’t get the window to play domestic cricket.

Test cricket is a mind game and you have to apply your mind. At this level, you should be the best judge in terms of what to do, how to adjust and play according to the situation.

(As told to Shamik Chakrabarty)

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