AHMEDABAD: Apart from dominating England in their own backyard, with three centuries at Lord’s alone, former India captain Dilip Vengsarkar was a master batsman against spin bowling at home as well. His career highest of 166 (against Sri Lanka) on a Cuttack wicket that aided a vicious turn and saw puffs of dust getting kicked up, is one that best illustrated his ability.
With a lot of talk on batsmen facing difficulties on the spin-friendly pitches that were laid out in Chennai and Ahmedabad for the second and third Tests respectively between India and England, Vengsarkar, who played 115 Test matches, spoke on how to approach spinners in such conditions.
India won the last two Tests on a difficult wicket. What are the things you need to take care while batting on these surfaces?
The advantage for us (India) was that we are used to playing local cricket and domestic cricket against quality spinners. So that helped us quite a lot. Basically, when you see that the ball is seaming or turning, you have to work hard for runs. When the ball is spinning, one should play very late and ensure not to jab at the ball. Also, you need to ensure that bat is your first line of defence.
How do you approach and read the ball?
You allow the ball to turn or bounce or whatever (it is doing). It also comes out of habit. Suppose if you can’t work out the ball from the bowler’s hand, you can then work out from the air and the spinning of the seam. These things you develop only after playing and getting into a habit. We play quality spinners at domestic level. That helps us a lot.
Batting against Ravichandran Ashwin, what would you keep in mind?
The first and foremost thing is that you have to see what sort of a wicket you are batting on and then accordingly, you adapt to conditions. Ashwin is a top-class spinner. So when you are playing a top-class spinner, you know he will be up to something. He has got some more (extra) variety up his sleeve so you have to anticipate what he is going to bowl next. That is very important. It all depends on the wicket and the situation of the match, whether you want to grind, whether you want to play late, whether you want to attack. There is no fixed way. You can’t say I will bat this way or that way, you have to improvise then and there.
How did you find the batting of Rohit Sharma in the last two Tests?
He is one of the best batsmen in the world. There is no question about it. The way he plays fast bowling on any surface, whether it is seaming or bouncing. Or even against spinners (in the last two Tests). It is a treat to watch him bat.
What do you attribute his batting skills to?
He has a great defensive technique. Because if you have to score runs on any kind of wicket, you need a good defensive technique. He has that. I’d say he has everything. How he changes gears, how he approaches the game, his attacking technique. The way he played against spinners is a treat to watch just like it is watching him against fast bowling.
You had a love for Lord’s. You are the only visiting batsman to make three Test centuries at the venue. What made it possible?
Those days while touring England, we used to play a lot of side games against County teams i.e., matches outside of Test cricket. That helped us to adapt to conditions especially in England. Once you adapt to conditions, you can spend more time in the middle and get runs in the middle. So that gives you confidence. It gave me confidence.