India are playing a Test series at the moment, but they have admitted, in almost as many words, that they are using it as a warm-up exercise for their upcoming tour of South Africa. They have rested players keeping that tour in mind, and have tried to simulate South African conditions instead of giving themselves the home advantage.
Their opponents, Sri Lanka, have reason to feel miffed at this, but Nic Pothas, their interim coach, has maintained that he sees nothing wrong with what India are doing. He reiterated this on Friday after his side were bowled out for 205 in Nagpur.
“Not at all,” Pothas said, when asked if he felt India were undermining Sri Lanka. “That’s a professional environment. They are planning. They are looking forward to another series that is coming up. They have every right in their country to prepare the wickets they want. That’s what every side does.
“From our point of view, we are only concentrating on ourselves and playing our best cricket. The Indian team is doing exactly that, preparing for a series. That’s their prerogative and that’s their right. I have no problem with that.”
The pitch in Nagpur had an even covering of grass, but it did not offer the fast bowlers anywhere near as much assistance as the one prepared in Kolkata for the first Test. Seven of Sri Lanka’s wickets, instead, fell to the spinners R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. Pothas said the pitch hadn’t helped the spinners to any great extent, and lamented that a number of his batsmen had fallen to the ball that didn’t turn.
“The wicket has got no demons,” he said. “It hasn’t spun, it hasn’t seamed. There were six straight-ball dismissals. International level, no surprise. Ashwin and Jadeja got wickets bowling stump-to-stump. At this level, you can’t be missing straight balls.”
Ashwin and Jadeja took 30 wickets between them on India’s tour of Sri Lanka earlier this year. Pothas said the pitches there had given them a lot more help than the one in Nagpur did.
“In the last series, the wickets spun,” he said. “You are talking of the two top spinners of the world. It was a different kettle of fish. Here the wicket has not done anything. All that it has done is to skid on a bit. The first day of a Test match, what you have done on a wicket that has not done much is losing seven wickets to spin. It is a disappointed changing room and the guys have set themselves high standards. They are going to be disappointed. In any process you are going to have those disappointments.”
A couple of the dismissals were to aggressive shots. Dinesh Chandimal, Sri Lanka’s captain, was out reverse-sweeping a ball that pitched within the stumps.
“The captain made a decision at that time, we empower the batsmen to make decisions in the middle,” Pothas said. “He obviously felt that that was the way to score runs at that point – didn’t come off. I probably say that maybe the timing of that shot was, perhaps, not his best. He is playing well and he is confident and we back our batsmen to be positive. You can’t be there forever and block it.”
Niroshan Dickwella charged Jadeja and fell while hitting over the top despite not reaching the pitch of the ball. That wicket began a Sri Lankan slide from 160 for 4 to 205 all out. Pothas refused to blame Dickwella for the collapse.
“In hindsight, that’s what the numbers tell you,” he said. “We let ourselves down from that point onwards. You can’t say that Niroshan Dickwella gets out and the rest can get out. Dick is a positive batter and that’s a shot he plays well. I don’t want to stop him being himself.
“I want people to bat the way they bat and he is kind of player who transfers pressure back onto the bowlers. Certainly not going to say that because Dick got out, others got out.”