Mohali: India might have wasted the advantage of winning the toss after being bundled out for a paltry 201 against South Africa on Thursday but batting coach Sanjay Bangar feels the hosts' first innings total is "much bigger" than it looks on a slow and low pitch.
Bangar insisted that the first Test match is very much in the balance after the home spinners sent two visiting team batsmen back in the pavillion at close of opening day's play with South Africa scorecard reading 28 for two.
Asked about India letting go of the advantage, Bangar said: "To an extent yes, but we have got their two wickets already, so after 20 overs if they are 28 for 2, it just proves the point that the worth of 201 on the board is far more that what it looks. It is a very challenging wicket. I am not saying it is a good wicket or a bad wicket, but it is a very challenging wicket, wherein run-making is not easy.
Competitive cricket is where a batsman and a bowler have equal opportunities. I think bowlers have to get a chance. Bowlers do have an upper hand on this track, and batsmen have to cope with that," he said at the end of the first day's play here.
Murali Vijay top-scored with a valiant 75, while useful contributions came from Ravindra Jadeja (38), Cheteshwar Pujara (31) and Ravichandran Ashwin (20 not out), and Bangar said application was key on this track.
"I think runs can be made on this wicket as Vijay showed. When Pujara and Vijay were batting, or even Ajinkya (Rahane) and Vijay, it looked quite easy. A batsman's patience will be tested to the core, and even the bowlers will have to work hard on this wicket. It is slightly slow after pitching. It doesn't come on to the bat. It is going to be a test of the patience both for batsmen and the bowlers," he said.
"The extent of spin, seam or swing is something which cannot be fixed or measured. It is a challenge for all the batsmen. Equally taking wickets or scoring runs on such tracks is an art. Players will have to apply all their skills," Bangar explained.
The lack of application though was evident in the Indian innings as the left-arm spinner Dean Elgar (4/22) made the home team batsmen commit errors on his flighted deliveries and Bangar admitted that his batters were at fault.
"I think yes, batsmen do commit errors and it is our job to make them aware of it. I am pretty sure that once they come back and bat for the second dig, they will come over it," he said.
The former India international praised the South African spinners Elgar, Simon Harmer and Imran Tahir (2/23).
"I think they looked a pack and they bowled to a certain plan. They were able to extract spin from the wicket. I think they looked quite good," he added.
Certainly not surprised by Elgar's opening-day exploits, Bangar said: "The thing is he was willing to throw the ball up in the air for a longer period above the eye-line of the batsmen and that was actually good spin bowling wherein he created certain angles and that probably forced our batsmen to commit some mistakes."
Asked if India Test skipper Virat Kohli getting out for just one on his birthday was too disappointing for him, Bangar said: "No I think for a cricketer like Virat he takes immense pride in representing the country and every day he steps on to the field, he tries and gives his utmost. His intensity is very high.
I don't think he has treated this day as any different from any other day wherein he would step on to the field wearing an India cap," Bangar asserted.
On current generation of batsmen being better against pacers than spinners, Bangar said, "No, I don't think so. Current day batsmen are taking far more risks against spinners, as against fast bowlers. The rate at which they score, their strike-rates, seem to be increasing and with that at times, they do make mistakes but then it is a very thin line between success and failure.
The lesser shots you play, the lesser the chances of an error but all the batsmen do practice a lot many shots. They want to target each and every angle that is available for run-scoring. You could see that the more shots they play, the chances of errors also increase. But that's what makes cricket most exciting in these times wherein some of the shots that the batsmen today play, they leave you in a bit of an awe," he added.
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