You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Never seen a pitch like that, says Renshaw after a “great day”

Wisden India logo Wisden India 24-02-2017

After a monumental innings of 184 against Pakistan in Sydney, at the conclusion of Australia’s summer of Test cricket, Darren Lehmann, the coach, suggested that Matt Renshaw wasn’t sure of a place in the XI when the squad journeyed to India. Given his record in Sri Lanka, Shaun Marsh was certain to be recalled, which meant choosing between Renshaw and Usman Khawaja for the second opener’s spot.

Khawaja’s previous travails on the subcontinent clearly counted against him, and it was Renshaw that got the nod for the only warm-up game before the first Test. He failed in both innings. He then walked out to bat on a Pune pitch resembling a cracked mirror.

After Ishant Sharma had bowled the first over, Renshaw had to process the sight of R Ashwin sharing the new cherry. “It’s the first time I’ve faced a spinner opening the bowling, so I was just enjoying the challenge,” said Renshaw at the end of the first day’s play on Thursday (February 23). “Facing the best bowler in the world is a great challenge in itself, be it with a new ball or an old one.”

Renshaw spent two weeks in Dubai prior to this tour, practising on worn pitches at the ICC Academy. But no amount of practice can prepare you for the real thing. On these pitches, Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja in tandem is a batsman’s worst nightmare come to life.

“We’ve watched a lot of footage, and we’ve worked out different ideas and I think training against local spinners has been good in working out those plans,” said Renshaw. “They’re two class bowlers. You can tell why they’re No.1 and 2 in the world. I thought we played them quite well. We just worked on what we spoke about. We challenged their consistency and their plans.”

He was especially impressive against Jadeja, who was taken for 22 in his first four overs. “I think it helps having the ball turn into you,” pointed out Renshaw. “It’s quite hard to attack Ashwin when he gets some to turn big past the bat, and some to go straight on. As a left-hander, you naturally want the ball coming back to you. If there’s an opportunity to try and hit a six, you take it.”

There were several doomsday prophecies about the pitch before the first ball had been bowled, not least from Shane Warne, but for the best part of a session, Renshaw and David Warner dealt with the best that India could throw at them.

“I’ve never seen a pitch like that, so I went with a pretty open mind and tried to do just what I normally do in Australia, which is bat as long as possible and wear the bowlers down,” said the younger opener. “It’s probably a bit harder to wear them down if they’re spinners, but I think I just tried to keep my plan simple against each different bowler.”

Sanjay Bangar, India’s batting coach, spoke of how focus was the key on such surfaces. “When you go to England, you have to negotiate the seaming ball, in Australia, you negotiate the bouncing ball, and when you come to India, you negotiate the turning ball,” he said. “If you see, at the end of the day, the score is still 256 for 9 and that’s a lot of runs to score.

“The batsmen who applied themselves have shown that runs can be scored on this track. It’s not that there was variable bounce. As Team India, we never complain of any pitch when we play abroad. It’s just day one of a Test match.

“Being good against spin bowling requires a lot of skill. It tests you quite a bit. Playing fast bowling is all about courage. But playing spin, you have to make sure that your feet are to the pitch of the ball. If it’s a turning ball, you have to be right on top of it to negotiate it. If there’s bounce on offer, shot selection becomes crucial. So all facets of batsmanship are tested playing against a quality spin attack like India.

“They showed a lot of application and because of that, they are able to be in the position that they are in. You could see that they were working hard. They trusted their defence, and used their feet quite a bit – so all facets of good batsmanship against spin bowling.”

At 205 for 9, with Umesh Yadav taking two in two balls, Australia were staring at an ignominious end to the day. But Mitchell Starc then redressed the balance somewhat with a power-packed half-century. “We’ve talked about how the top order needs to score runs, but especially about how the tail needs to hang on and get some bonus runs,” said Renshaw. “I think we’ve had a great day and it’s a good confidence builder.”

Bangar admitted that the unbroken 51-run partnership for the tenth wicket had deflated the mood somewhat. “Obviously, we would have been very happy had we batted in the evening,” he said. “But we have seen in the past when our lower order has contributed a lot. So all credit to Starc, because he came out and backed himself and played those shots.

“Because of that partnership they were able to end the day in a good position. I think we were expecting them to be bowled out for around 230 or less than that. But they applied themselves.”

“We were all sitting in our whites ready to go, but we could hear the crowd and we were trying to guess if it would be a four or a play-and-miss,” said Renshaw of the Starc blast. “It was a really entertaining innings and it helped us massively.”

But that Australia were even batting so late into the day’s play was in no small measure down to the effort of a 20 year old who faced 156 balls across two stints, while also dealing with much ridicule and trenchant criticism of his temperament – how that’s related to bowel movements is a discussion for another day.

“Credit to him, the way he came back,” said Bangar of Renshaw’s 68. “He started really well, applied himself. For a young player, he showed a lot of character playing in his first Test in India.”

More from Wisden India

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon