India’s batting coach Vikram Rathour has clarified that Steve Smith’s actions on Day 5 had no bearing on Rishabh Pant’s batting and claimed that the youngster, in fact, was unaware that Smith had strode to the crease. Rathour further asserted that a call on Bumrah’s fitness will be taken tomorrow.
Despite being one of the best Tests of the entire century, the SCG encounter between India and Australia was marred with controversy, and while the issue of racism took center-stage on Day 3 and Day 4, the ‘scruff-gate’ became the talking point on Day 5. In a 15-second clip that went viral on social media, Smith was seen allegedly scruffing Rishabh Pant’s crease and erasing the batsman’s guard, an action for which he was crucified and chastised online. However, the Australian was vindicated of any wrongdoing after Cricket Australia released extended footage, and since, the Australian camp have publicly condemned the vilification of their talisman.
In a virtual press conference today, India’s batting coach Vikram Rathour also pretty much gave it away that Smith was innocent, and claimed that Pant, in fact, was unaware and unbothered by the Australian’s actions until they saw the controversy blow up on social media.
“Basically we didn’t even know about that incident. Only after the game, after the media picked it up, we noticed it. As a batsman, Rishabh wasn’t even aware actually. I won’t like to comment on it because it hardly mattered to him. Because as a batsman he wasn’t even aware,” Rathour said today, addressing the media.
The ‘scruff-gate’ showed Smith in bad light, but long before the incident he’d shown his class, as the 31-year-old belted a century in the first innings, followed by an 81 in the second, to roar back to form. With the series locked at 1-1, Smith returning to form is an ominous sign for the Indians, but Rathour asserted that the visitors will stick to the rigorous plans they’d devised for their nemesis at the start of the series.
“We all know he (Smith) is a good player. Our bowlers have been working on specific plans against him and against all the other batters of the Australian cricket team. Last game he scored some runs, yes, but we will still back our plans. Whatever the bowlers have been discussing between themselves, we’ll still back those plans and we’ll try to get him out this game.”
While from Australia, the focus has been on Smith, the trio of Rahane, Pujara and Vihari have received plaudits across the series, in the Indian camp, for chipping in with invaluable contributions. The catch about all three players is that they are Test specialists who do not play any other format internationally, but Rathour quashed suggestions that being a ‘one-format player’ puts more pressure on batsmen to succeed.
“You’re right, they are playing only one format. But at the same time they have time to prepare for the format. Pressure is always there - whenever you are playing international cricket, you will always have to deal with pressure. As far as if playing just one format will put added pressure on the batters, I’m not too sure. They know what they are good at, they are working on those areas and those formats. Preparing well for the format and performing there - that’s what they’re focused on,” India’s batting coach said of Rahane, Pujara and Vihari.
Of the aforementioned trio, Vihari has already been ruled out of the final Test with a hamstring injury, but India have an even bigger injury concern in the form of Jasprit Bumrah, who injured his abdomen in the third Test. Rathore did not give a clear update on how fit Bumrah is, but claimed that the management will take a call on his participation in the morning of the Test.
“We’ll have to wait till tomorrow morning to see how fit he (Bumrah) is - whether he’ll be fit enough to play or not. If he can play he will play. If he can’t, then of course he won’t.”
The visiting Indian side has been struck with a plethora of off-field issues since the start of the tour, and yet another issue popped up on Tuesday when the camp expressed dissatisfaction over the lack of facilities in the hotel they were staying in Brisbane. There are hence concerns that the off-field issues might affect the team on the field, but Rathour dismissed such suggestions. The 51-year-old claimed that India don’t need ‘housekeeping’ to get them motivated to play Australia in Australia, and asserted that the boys will be up for the Gabba challenge come Friday.
“Boss we are playing Australia in Australia. Against one of the better attacks in the world. So I think motivation is there. You don’t need housekeeping or room service to motivate yourself. Of course these were some concerns that were passed on to the BCCI and the BCCI got in touch with Cricket Australia in order to deal with all these things. But as far as the team is concerned, we are focused on the game. All the boys are looking forward to this game and hoping to do well.”