India middle order batsman Hanuma Vihari believes their batsmen are ready to face the challenge of Test cricket in Australia, starting with the day-night game in Adelaide this Thursday. Vihari scored an unbeaten second-innings century in the second tour game played under lights against Australia A at the SCG, and said the unique challenge of facing the pink ball lay in the evening.
“Getting to practice with the pink ball just before the day-night Test is ideal practice for us,” Vihari said. “I think we played against a decent opposition in both games. The challenge with the pink ball is during the twilight and when the floodlights are on. It does a little bit in the air and off the wicket. That is the challenge we have realised as a team. I hope not only me but all the batsmen will take it as a challenge going into Adelaide, and we will make sure as a batting group we put up a good total.”
India will miss their regular captain Virat Kohli after the first Test as he goes home for paternity leave. He didn’t play any of the tour games, but in his absence the others didn’t move a spot up. The vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane seems like he doesn’t fancy a change from his usual No. 5 position, which pushed the No. 6 Vihari to bat at No. 4 in both games. If India do that in the three Tests that Kohli doesn’t play, they run the risk of putting together two similar, defence-oriented batsmen, Vihari and Cheteshwar Pujara, together at the same time. Vihari was asked how different it was to bat with Pujara and Rahane. Predictably he didn’t give much away.
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“At No. 4, I always feel you have more time than you think,” he said. “In domestic cricket I have batted No. 3, so I am a bit familiar batting up the order. Obviously batting with Puji is completely different. We try to communicate, and he tells me what the bowler is trying to do. We always have good communication. And batting with Ajinkya, I think he is more flamboyant. I also feel he has got a good sense of the game situation. I enjoy batting with both of them. But coming in at No. 6 is a totally different equation altogether. You have to bat with a batsman and then the keeper and the allrounder or the bowlers. I enjoy batting at both positions but it depends on the team situation and the need for the day.”
Vihari said these two games have given them a good chance to get used to the extra bounce in Australia. “Bounce plays a major part,” Vihari said. “We as Indians tend to play at every ball because of the bounce back home. But we are coping with the extra bounce pretty well. The first two practice games, if you see we have left the ball very well, and we are trying to acclimatise with the conditions here. Coming into the first Test, we are very well equipped with the pace and the bounce of the wickets. I am pretty sure we will do well.”
Those who haven’t played both the games – Kohli, Pujara being the significant ones – have been working hard in the nets, Vihari said. “They have been practising every day in the nets,” he said. “They have been putting in the hard work. They are senior players, and they have been playing international cricket for a long time. We have played one pink-ball Test before this as well so they are used to it. And they are practising with it every day. I am sure being the professionals they are, they will be very well equipped with their game.”
When Vihari last came to Australia, he had to open during a crisis period to get a look-in. He is proud of that effort at the MCG, but feels much more confident of his ability now that he has cemented a spot in the side. “Coming in 2018 I was coming into my second tour [he had debuted in England earlier that year],” Vihari said. “It was a good challenge for me back then. Although I contributed a bit, now I am very well equipped with my game and I am pretty sure with my game plan as well. I am really looking forward to the series.”
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