India’s chief coach Anil asserted that the team has not asked for a rank turner for the first Test beginning on Thursday besides saying that that focus this long home season will only be on cricket irrespective of the conditions.
“It is the first match of the home series, I knew the first question would be about the pitch and also the last question,” said Kumble ahead of the season opener, drawing an instant laughter from the packed press conference.
He further rubbished speculation that team has specifically asked for a turner.
“Nobody is demanding anything. We will go into the game thinking that our spinners are better. We hope the performance we produced in the West Indies continues at home as well. Yes there will be spin and opinions will be formed after the first ball. But since I am the coach, I can’t think like that. We make our plans as the game goes on,” said Kumble.
There has been a lot of pitch talk, which is usual before the start of a home series. However, Kumble, being a legendary spinner himself, is only concerned about the cricket his boys play in the home season comprising 13 Tests.
“According to me, it is a typical Kanpur wicket. It is start of the season, it has rained a lot and the surface has not been used much of late. It is looking good. Having said that, I believe that the talk should be about cricket that is played on the pitch and not the pitch. In the team meetings, we have discussed this only. Whatever wicket we get, we will adapt and play,” said Kumble in his typical no nonsense manner.
Talking about the opposition, Kumble spoke highly of the visiting New Zealand side and its spinners –leggie Ish Sodhi, left-armer Mitchel Santer and offie Mark Craig.
“New Zealand have always done really well. They are not just good at home, they tour really well. The fact that they have three spinners (each being different from another), yes we watched them, at least I watched the two spinners out of three in T20 World Cup where they played a significant role in the team.
“Heartening to see spinners play a major role in other teams and not just the Indian team. We respect the opponents, not just in the spin department but in all departments. They have different spin variations, which you don’t see often in a foreign team.”
With so much of bilateral cricket played all around the world, Kumble said there is not much of surprise element left in the game.
“I don’t think there any intrigue left. The challenge is to adapt to the conditions as quickly as possible. Equally the same for the home team as well. You playing so much cricket and it is all about adapting to the challenges that come you way.
“The home team certainly has the advantage in these conditions but for a foreign team, the conditions are no longer alien. Most of the New Zealand players have played in the IPL, so they know what to expect and how to adapt,” Kumble stated.
How does coach Kumble look at the long home season ahead?
“The immediate task on hand is the focus but we are also keeping in mind the long season ahead. 13 Tests in less than six months is not easy on the players, their workloads. We will keep track of that during preparations.
“You would notice as the series goes along, there will will be less time spent in between matches on the cricket field. So whatever we need to address, we will only address those isses. This is like the second summer in India, just before the winter sets in. We are looking at six months but from a team’s perspective, we are focussing on this match for now,” he said.
Speaking on the challenges facing a modern-day cricketer, Kumble said switching formats is not easy with so much T20 cricket being played.
“It is quite challenging for the modern day cricketer to keep changing formats. Invariably, when you are playing in the shorter format, the game is always in favour of the batsmen. When it comes to Tests, irrespective of the condtions, we have seen modern day cricketers struggle after doing well initially.
“For example, they were good players of seam bowling in the previous year but they struggled on a seaming track (the following season) because of what the modern day batsman encounters.
“One good thing we have had is that we are coming off a Test series and getting into a Test series. In terms of preparation, we have spent a lot of time on how to play spinners, how to respond to playing spinners. We will will only improve,” felt Kumble.
The Kanpur Test will be India’s 500th Test in the format. Kumble said it was a great milestone.
“For me, part of the Indian team was special and a great honour. Starting from 1932 till today, there have been great players who have contributed this great legacy of 499 Tests. Each of them has looked to raise the bar and this team is no different. All of us should celebrate this milestone and recollect the memories provided by the former players.
“Want not only want to win this Test but also the series,” Kumble added.