Dravid: We were under pressure but individual performances kept us in the game


India rode on individual brilliance to level the series against England in Visakhapatnam. Yashasvi Jaiswal made a double-century in the first innings, but the next highest score was only 34. Jasprit Bumrah blew England away with reverse swing even as the spinners were struggling to make headway. Then Shubman Gill broke out of a poor run of form to score a century in the third innings, but once again the next highest contribution was only 45.

Head coach Rahul Dravid has conceded that they were kept in the game and then got ahead of the game thanks to two incredible solo performances. “We were put under pressure at various times, but I think a couple of individual brilliances kept us in the game in the first couple of days,” he said at the post-match press conference on Monday.

“Yashasvi’s brilliant innings, 209 in that first innings. And then Bumrah’s spell really on the first two days kept us, or got us ahead by 140 [runs]. And then, we needed a bit more of a team performance over the next days three and four to get us over the line. So, yeah, quite pleased considering, going behind in the last Test match and then losing a few players. Happy we were able to bounce back, but we recognise it’s gonna be a fantastic series and it’s gonna be some tough cricket played over the next three games.”

Though India took a sizeable first innings lead – 143 – they weren’t able to run with it because they kept losing wickets. Considering that, Dravid praised the batters for dealing with those setbacks and for coming out on top. It was two under-pressure players that navigated India to safety – Gill and Shreyas Iyer.

“I don’t think there was any stage in the game where we felt we could actually force the play,” Dravid said. “As soon as we thought we could force the play with our 80-run partnership [with Iyer and Gill], we lost a couple of wickets. Then we settled in and got another partnership. If we had got to tea at 250 for 4 instead of 230 for 6, we were 210 for 4 I think, and you just start getting comfortable and then you lose a couple of wickets and you’re thinking, ‘oh’.

“So I don’t think we were in any position at any stage in this game to ever think about putting pressure back on the opposition. So I think more than that [forcing the play], I think after we lost the first couple of wickets, we soaked the pressure really well to get that partnership, but we couldn’t just capitalise on it enough. And then the same thing happened when we got another 80-partnership [between Gill and Axar Patel]. If we had made that 120 or 130, then I’m sure we would have thought about it differently.”

Dravid did hope that moving forward, as this young batting group gains experience, they will be able to take better decisions regarding when to defend and when to attack.

“If you want people to play with a little bit of intent and play a little bit positively, then you’re gonna have to accept a few mistakes,” he said. “And at times, you know, people may not be able to convert some of the starts, but for us, for me, it’s not so much about, it’s just about reading the game and the game situation. I think it’s about understanding are we making the right decisions when to put the pressure, or are we recognising that this is a moment where we need to soak in the pressure a little bit and maybe maybe be a little bit more conservative rather than attack all out?

“I do feel that we did leave runs on the board here again. I think that’s, again, maybe a function of the fact that we do have a lot of young batsmen coming through who are I think still figuring out Test cricket a little bit. But you don’t have a lot of time, you know, to figure out Test cricket.

“I will honestly say that I think we left a few runs on the board in both innings. you know, in both innings I felt we could have got, certainly in the first innings here, 396 I thought was under par. You win a toss. We have one guy with a double-hundred, you should be pushing 450, 475 in these conditions.”

There continues to be focus on the conditions for Test matches in India with former captain Sourav Ganguly posting on social media that they should consider preparing pitches for their fast bowlers who are showing they can win Test matches on their own as well.

“Curators make the pitches,” Dravid said. “We don’t ask for rank turners. Obviously tracks in India will spin, how much they’ll spin, how less they’ll spin, I’m not an expert, you know. Sometimes I get told they’ll turn on the third day, they turn on the first day. Sometimes I get told they turn on the second day and they don’t turn till day four. So, you know, I am sometimes as clueless as anybody else. We look at the wicket and we try to do the best we can with what we get and we’ll go to Rajkot, we’ll see what we get and play with whatever we get in front of us.”

Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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