Former India skipper Sunil Gavaskar is impressed by Ajinkya Rahane’s field placements but said he will refrain from praising his captaincy as it is still “early days” and he does not want to be accused of backing a fellow Mumbaikar.
Taking charge of the team in the absence of regular skipper Virat Kohli, Rahane marshalled his resources well as India dismissed Australia for a sub-par 195 in 72.3 overs on the opening day of the second Test here.
Asked for his comments on Rahane’s leadership, Gavaskar said: “… let’s not jump into conclusions too quickly. If I say that his captaincy is outstanding, then again, I will be accused of backing a Mumbai boy and all kinds of things will happen.
“So I don’t want to get into that because these are early days,” the legendary batsman said on Sony Sports Network.
Gavaskar was impressed with Rahane’s field placements as three Australian batsmen — Marnus Labuschange, Steve Smith, and Travis Head — were all caught by fielders deployed at different positions.
That’s wicket No.4 for @Jaspritbumrah93 🔥
— BCCI (@BCCI) December 26, 2020
“From what I have seen in the last 2 Tests he captained and the one-day matches he captained, he has got a great sense of where the fielders should be kept,” Gavaskar said.
“Having said that, it’s very important for the bowlers to bowl to their field. If the bowlers bowl to the field, as they did today, then the captain looks very good.”
Rahane was impressive with his bowling changes also. He introduced R Ashwin inside the first hour of play and the senior spinner delivered, dismissing Matthew Wade and Steve Smith to reduce Australia to 38 for three.
Rahane also didn’t give debutant Mohammed Siraj a single over before lunch break as he knew that his strength is generating pace and movement with semi-new and old ball as the pacer returned with two crucial wickets.
Gavaskar said it was important to attribute India’s success on the opening day to the efforts made by the bowling unit.
“It’s important for India to look beyond the fact that it’s only Ajinkya Rahane’s captaincy. It’s the way Ashwin bowled, it’s the way Bumrah bowled, it’s the way Siraj made his debut,” the 71-year-old said.
“I mean imagine, being a new-ball bowlers, and you don’t get to bowl a single delivery before the second session. Only in the second session, you get to bowl in the 27th over but he showed great spirit in the way he came and bowled.
“It tells you a lot about this Indian team that they were at the Australians and they got the early wicket. If they hadn’t got the early wicket, if Australia had gotten to a 60 or 70 for 0 kind of start, then their body language might have been different.”
Gavaskar was “pretty surprised at the fact that on Day 1 there’s a lot of turn for the Indian spinners.”
Ashwin exploited the turn and bounce at the MCG to capture three wickets for 35, which included the prized scalp of Smith, who was dismissed for a duck for the first time in over four years in Test cricket.
“He’s (Ashwin) been bowling straight, he’s been bowling on the middle and leg, it’s been pretty much a plan to try and restrict the batsmen from playing any shot through the off-side,” Gavaskar told 7 cricket.
“If you look at Smith’s dismissal because maybe he was on zero he wanted to get off the mark, wasn’t able to control it.”
Former stars hail stand-in captain Rahane’s leadership
India’s stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane drew praise for his tactical acumen with former stars hailing his effective bowling changes that put the visitors in a dominating position in the second Test against Australia here on Saturday.
Australia opted to bat but it was India that seized the initiative with Rahane shuffling his bowlers smartly to keep the hosts under the pump.
Whether it was the early introduction of off-spinner R Ashwin or the decision to hold back debutant Mohammed Siraj, all his ploys yielded results and eventually the hosts were all out for 195.
“Outstanding bowling changes and really smart fielding placements from Rahane. And the bowlers delivered. Ashwin, (Jasprit) Bumrah, Siraj were absolutely brilliant. Great effort to get Australia all out for 195 on the first day. Now for the batters to get a good first innings lead,” former India opener Virender Sehwag tweeted.
Rahane is leading the side in the absence of regular captain Virat Kohli, who is on paternity leave.
Former Australia skipper Ricky Ponting said the credit to India’s success on the opening day goes to Rahane’s captaincy.
“(Rahane’s captaincy) has been brilliant so far. We were all a bit worried about how they were going to pick themselves up after Adelaide. I think they looked potentially better today,” Ponting told cricket.com.au.
“Rahane’s field placements, bowling changes have all been pretty much spot on. With captaincy, making bowling changes and changing the field, you need guys to be able to execute well. Some of the wickets they got today, even Smith at leg slip early on, I think that was a set plan.
“Joe Burns’ dismissal would have been exactly how they wanted it.”
Bumrah (4/56) dismissed four Australia batsmen while Siraj (2/40) accounted for two.
Australian spin legend Shane Warne was extremely pleased with the way action unfolded on day one.
“What a terrific day of cricket at the MCG today. Congrats to the ground staff on preparing the best wicket at the MCG for a long time. More of these type of pitches please ! The Indian bowlers were outstanding too & very well lead (sic) by @ajinkyarahane88! Can India bat all day?,” the leg-spinner tweeted.
Former India batsman VVS Laxman was impressed with debutants Shubman Gill, and Mohammed Siraj and the new leader at the helm.
“Excellent day’s play for India. Bowlers were once again sensational, both the debutants looked confident, Rahane captained the side really well but most importantly they didn’t carry the baggage of the loss from Adelaide,” Laxman tweeted.