Pitch Won't Have A Great Influence On The Combination Of The Team, Kohli Said > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more
Cricket news - Pitch won't have major influence on team combination, says Kohli
Even as rains have lashed Pune in the week leading up to the second Test between India and South Africa, Virat Kohli reckons the pitch won't play 'that big a factor' going ahead.
The pitch at the MCA stadium made an infamous Test debut in February 2017, when the cracks on an under-watered pitch began to open up right from Day 1 and resulted in a heavy defeat for India - their last loss at home - and a 'poor' rating from the ICC.
More than two years on, as Test cricket returns to the venue, the focus is understandably on the finer details of the 22 yards. There was perhaps no question of leaving the wicket under-watered this time as rains have been incessant to such an extent that there's now an expectation of a polar-opposite seamer-friendly strip.
Umesh Yadav, the third seamer in the Indian squad, did get some time in the nets in an optional session on the eve of the Test, but Kohli doesn't appear too keen on letting the expected dampness in the pitch dictate his combination plans.
"More or less our team is settled and I don't think the pitch will play that big a factor. When the pitch is damp, it turns as well, it's not that only seamers are predominantly effective on all five days," Kohli said on Wednesday (October 9).
For either team to make any drastic decisions in the face of damp weather, the pitch too perhaps needs to carry a healthy grass coverage, which is not the case in Pune.
One day out, there is a very slight tinge which perhaps won't survive until the match-day morning. There's a forecast of afternoon thunderstorms all through the five days, but the temperatures are also expected to hit the early 30s, which should help in drying out any kind of moisture that settles underneath the wicket.
"Unless you have a pitch that has total grass coverage only then you think of combination too much. Because you do know that it will dry out at some stage and you can't go with one-sided (one dimensional) attack and can't have balance. We are pretty balanced in our team combinations and if any changes need to be made [based on] how the pitch might behave on the first three days then we'll do so. We don't see any reason to think about looking at the pitch.
"It'll have to be a decision that can be taken tomorrow morning because the pitch can very well change with so much sun over the last three days. If there's a bit of moisture that's gone into the pitch, yeah it should be a good pitch to play on for seamers initially, and the ball does tend to turn here and batsmen for the first two days tend to get runs here with the quick outfield. We will have to play good cricket regardless of how the pitch plays. If it is damp, so be it, if it is hard and good to bat on, we have to bat well or bowl well," he added.
Kohli's opposite number Faf du Plessis, meanwhile, has a slightly different view - powered mainly by his resolve to put together a line-up that can pick 20 Indian wickets. He too is not letting the recent weather conditions cloud his judgment, and said that his side will go into the Test expecting a lot of spin - more than what they experienced in Vizag.
"You try and see what's your most aggressive option to get you wickets. We didn't get 20 wickets in the first Test. I don't want to do that again, I want us to get 20 wickets in this Test match. So if there's grass on the pitch, then great. We're obviously used to playing on that. But we're not planning on that and we're planning for a pitch that will be a bit drier and the ball to spin. If it doesn't so be it, but we're mentally getting ready for what's lying ahead so that we're not surprised by what happens," du Plessis said.
Such mental preparation also stems from the urge to make quick progress after South Africa's Vizag performance brought some well-deserved optimism to their camp. The Proteas showed great doggedness and smarts of mixing defence and aggression against the India spinners in the first innings, where they went on to make a 400-plus total and keep India's lead down to just 71 runs. South Africa stood tall against India for four full days before their bowlers struggled for control with the ball and then Shami and Jadeja snuffed them out on Day 5.
Du Plessis is glad to take home the positives but is insistent on his side finding the next level of performance. That, according to him, lies making a good start in a Test and leaving India to play catch-up.
"I think it is obvious in saying that every Test match we'd like to start well. Even start the Test match ahead of India, that would be nice. We're a team that is very, very resilient. We come back almost always. We've got a lot of character and a lot of fight. For me, it is about how we start. Try and get ahead of the match, try and put pressure on India first so they can try and play catch up for the rest of the series. But that's easier said than done," du Plessis said.
So keen is the skipper, that he's also been practicing his coin toss flips. "We've to make sure we do those things [put pressure on India], starting with the toss. I can start that first punch," he said.
To really be able to throw the first punch, du Plessis needs a lot of luck going his way on Thursday morning. Of the 23 tosses that Kohli has won in 49 Tests as captain, 13 have come at home.
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