Mohali: South African batsmen may have criticised the pitch on offer during the ongoing first cricket Test at the PCA Stadium here, but the visiting team spin coach Claude Henderson today said he also would have preferred a turning track had he been part of the Indian team management.
The turning Mohali wicket has been under the spotlight with Proteas opener Dean Elgar calling it a bad cricket wicket, but Henderson said that the visitors expected this kind of tactic from the hosts. "We have lost quite a bit of wickets now, only on day two really. We have seen a lot of wickets fall. It's going to be difficult. The question will always be why didn't our spinners turn it more than theirs.
"I think their batsmen played really well. I think the wicket is going to be really tough, it's not going to get easier. I wasn't surprised when I saw the wicket, I think it is good tactics by India, preparing a wicket like that, but it is not going to get easier," Henderson said after the second day's play. After part-time spinner Elgar turned out to be the unlikely hero of Day 1 by bagging a four-wicket haul, Ravichnadran Ashwin, who bagged a fifer today, made it count for India on the second day.
India now hold an edge after managing a 142-run second innings lead, and Henderson admits it will be tough for the visiting batsmen. "I will give you my honest opinion. Watching it, it is exciting to see spin taking wickets. If you ask our batsmen, it is not a nice wicket. But if I was the Indian coach, I would probably do the same," the former international cricketer said. Leg-spinner Imran Tahir was brought into the attack after Elgar and off-spinner Simon Harmer in both the innings and Henderson, who played seven Tests and four ODIs for the Proteas national team, was also surprised at the strategy.
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"That's a good question actually. Imran Tahir has just come back into Test cricket. He is obviously seen as an attacking bowler by Hashim. Maybe use him in short spells and Dean Elgar has taken four wickets in the first innings.
"But I agree, I would have loved to have seen him probably bowl a bit more longer today but look, it has been a quick day for South Africa on the field. Tomorrow we have got another day. Maybe that happens tomorrow," Henderson said when asked about the surprising move.
Henderson agreed that the road ahead is tough for South Africa but warned the hosts against complacency. "I think we need wickets tomorrow. They are 140-plus already, we need wickets early to try and create pressure. Anything above 200 I believe will be challenging but saying that, I have seen this team doing some special things," he said.
"With our batting line-up, I won't get easy if I am India because there is a lot of time left in this game and we don't know what can happen with this game. Anything can happen, the good thing is there is a lot of time left. But obviously, if they are going to go past 300, then it is going to be really difficult. The bigger the score, the longer you can carry catchers around. So it is going to be interesting," he opined.
Talking about the key to spinners' success on this track, Henderson said, "In the past, I haven't seen one Indian spinner not being successful at home and a lot of spinners in the past have come here and they have found it difficult. Not only the pace they bowl or maybe the tactics, plus also the pressure. It's big pressure on a spinner when you see somebody else taking wickets and turning, now you feel I have got to go and do it and that creates pressure.
"It's back to basics really. We look at the revolutions on the ball, we look at the pressure, the field placing and try and keep a spinner calm and really enjoy his bowling and bowl a long spell. Look at a guy like (Ravindra) Jadeja today. From the side, when you watch you think every ball spun past the bat but it didn't.
"But he bowled so many dot balls, he bowled a long spell and if you are capable of bowling long spells, one or two is going to jump and that's what he has done well. In Test cricket, if you find it easy to get off strike, it's very easy to manipulate spin, it is very difficult for a spinner to create pressure and get that one to turn and bounce. If you find a way of bowling dot ball after dot ball, something is going to happen," he said.