Matter of judgement – India wary of the new ball, and vow to leave it alone
INDIAN opener, Murali Vijay believes leaving the ball in South African conditions will be almost as important as scoring, and that India’s batsmen need to perfect their judgment ahead of the first Test at the Wanderers next week.
The tourists know exactly what’s coming to them at the “Bullring” from next Wednesday, and while they lack experience of South African conditions, they believe they have the right tactics to enable them to nullify South Africa’s imposing attack.
“There’s a lot that’s being thrown around,” 29-year-old Vijay said about remarks attributed to Dale Steyn, to the effect that there would be a lot of shortpitched bowling coming India’s way in the two Tests. “But for us it is about keeping it simple, freeing your mind, and then just playing.”
The most simple approach, especially against the new ball, which Vijay and opening partner Shikhar Dhawan will be facing, is to leave it alone. They feel Steyn and Vernon Philander both try and tempt batsmen outside offstump, and to negate that threat, it’s best to practice leaving the ball.
“I was watching old videos of the last time I came to South Africa. I played at a lot of balls. I’ve got a better idea now, and will be practising a lot leaving the ball, because doing so well will help us a lot. Nullifying the new ball is crucial.”
Vijay was in the starting side that claimed India’s second Test win on South African soil at Kingsmead in 2010 as Virender Sehwag’s opening partner. He made just 19 and nine in that match and was dropped for the final Test of that series, when Gautam Gambhir had recovered from a hand injury. Nevertheless, Vijay is one of just two Indian batsmen in the current squad who have experience of local conditions in Test action. Cheteshwar Pujara played two matches in that 2010/11 series and will be a key man at No 3 in the order for the India.
Vijay’s job will be to ensure Pujara is not exposed too early to the new ball. Rather than practising ducking and swaying to avoid balls flying around his head, Vijay says having the right mindset is crucial to being successful in South Africa. Before coming here, Vijay played three Ranji Trophy matches for his state, Tamil Nadu, but his returns were modest – just 118 runs in five innings with a highest score of 62. He’s not worried about form though.
“It’s not about how many runs I score, it’s how I feel inside,” remarked Vijay. “If I am in good touch and hitting the ball well, that’s what matters most, I’m feeling at my best and I’m in the best mind-set, so obviously I’m looking forward to this tour and what I can do.”
The absence of Sachin Tendulkar of course looms large over the touring party and the Test will be the first time they will be without the ‘Little Master’ since his retirement.
“Sachin taught me to try and get my own answers before talking to people, because that will confuse you more. That’s key for this tour, I want to focus on my own preparation, rather then go around confusing myself,” Vijay said.
India’s preparations suffered a blow yesterday when the first day of their match against an Invitation XI had to be called off due to a wet outfield at Willowmoore Park. Though the sun shone brightly in Benoni, heavy rains had left parts of the outfield sodden, and the umpires decided to call off play before the scheduled starting time.
India were allowed a middle practice. The teams will return to the ground this morning, but with more rain forecast, it’s unlikely any play will occur.