Hyderabad: The old magic was still evident. Mohammad Azharuddin, at 57 years, showed his inimitable elegance with the willow when he walked into the nets at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium on Monday evening after chairing the Apex Council meeting of the Hyderabad Cricket Association. The wristy flicks flowed from his bat much to the delight of the connoisseurs.
Stunned with the Adelaide collapse where India were bundled out for 36, Azharuddin said nobody expects a collapse like this. “But the Australian side bowled an impeccable line and length. However, we were found wanting technically. I think they did not adapt to Test cricket after playing in T20 and One-day formats. The Indian team was playing the pink ball after a long time and they could not adjust themselves. I am not a great fan of the pink ball Test. I’m more of a traditional red ball cricket and like playing in the morning.’’
Known for his attacking style of batting, Azhar said it is time to move on. “We have to look forward to the next three Tests. We can’t get into a hole. But surely 36 will haunt the Indian team for a long time.
Azhar said the return of Virat Kohli has further compounded India’s woes. “The team should fight and come out of the woods. Of course, with Kohli’s departure he has left a big void and the No.4 spot in any team is a crucial batting position. It is a huge challenge. I feel either Shubman Gill or KL Rahul should play at this vital spot. Anyway one of them will open with Mayank (Agarwal).’’
According to Azhar, the run out of Kohli was the turning point of the Adelaide Test. “He was in good touch and if he had been there, it would have been a different story. But these things happen in cricket. Australian batsmen struggled to get runs and if India had put up a big total, we could have been in the driver’s seat. The Australians came back strongly after being let off in the first two days of the match. We dropped too many catches. Cummins and Hazlewood came hard at the Indians. On the Adelaide wicket you need to play your shots. The Indian batsmen were indecisive in their footwork and game plan.’’
Asked whether Ajinkya Rahane will be under pressure, Azhar pointed out there will always be pressure. “If anybody says that he doesn’t have pressure, I can’t buy that theory. Rahane has to rise to the occasion. He has to lift the team with a strong show as a leader of the team. I think he has played enough cricket to handle this kind of pressure.’’
He added that India will miss the experience of four senior players – Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Ishant Sharma and Mohd Shami – in the Boxing Day Test. “It is a big loss. Last time when India went to Australia, Steve Smith and David Warner did not play. So it was not the fault of the Indian team. If Rohit Sharma was there for the second Test, he could have made a lot of difference to the team. He is the one who can release the pressure with attacking shots.’’
Azharuddin said Cheteshwar Pujara should be more positive. “He was a success story in the last series. If he doesn’t score runs, he automatically puts pressure on other batsmen and also puts the bowlers on the top. It is better to be 150 for 5 than 50 for 5.’’
The former Indian skipper feels that Pant should play under the present circumstances. “He can disturb the bowling with his attacking style of batting.’’ Azharuddin said he would be happy if Hyderabad’s Mohd Siraj made his debut in Melbourne. “Siraj is an exciting fast bowler. He is a good five-day bowler. He has the pace and swing. In Adelaide we felt short of one bowler because of Shami’s injury. In those conditions, we need four or five bowlers.’’
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