Expected more from lower order: Sanjay Bangar
R Ashwin played a careless shot to get out. (AFP Image)

Assistant coach Sanjay Bangar on Sunday highlighted India‘s lower-order collapse as one of the areas the team can improve going ahead in the Test series against Australia and said it is now about “crossing the line“. The visitors lost their last seven wickets for 73 runs, and the last five for 25 runs, as they were bowled out for 307 runs in the second innings of the opening Test at the Adelaide Oval.

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Chasing 323, Australia finished day four at 104 for four. Bangar said the expectation was of another 25 runs from the lower order, which collapsed as soon as Rishabh Pant holed out after an attacking innings.

“We were expecting atleast 25 runs. That’s an area where we are continuously looking to improve. And we hope the lower order, especially number 9, 10 and 11 show more application than they did today,” he said. “When Rishabh Pant walked in we were 260-odd. Immediately he released the pressure and gave us those quick 30-35 runs. Once he had put us in that position, we expected that with time, with a better approach and calculation, tactically he could have done better.

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“But you don’t want to take the fearlessness away from him otherwise. Hitting against the turn and getting those boundaries are high percentage shots. Those are the shots that many courageous players have played.”

When asked if Pant needs to relook at certain aspects of his batting, Bangar replied: “He is a pretty mature player. He is capable of playing both games. He has another aspect to his game and for somebody who is just starting his career, it is an exciting prospect to have.”

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Bangar said that it bode well that Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane had started this series well and that they had batted in some very difficult conditions in South Africa and England.

“One needs to understand that the margins in those games have been very, very slim. Right from Cape Town to the Oval, the margins of defeat were very small. We have put ourselves in those commanding positions. Unfortunately we couldn’t close those but as a team probably what we feel is that we have always been very competitive. Now it is about crossing the line,” the coach said.

He added that there had been some tough conditions in previous tours, and the criticism at times can be unreasonable.

“We have been through difficult periods where we have played under difficult conditions. But they started well here. When we arrived here in Adelaide, perception was that it is generally a batting friendly track. When we spoke to the groundsman he was of the opinion they had started using drop in wickets, which was needed to make the contest more even – 50-50 between bat and ball,” he added.

Bangar again specifically spoke of Rahane and Pujara, who scored a gritty hundred in the first innings.

“Pujara showed tremendous application especially after where we were at the end of the first session. About Rahane and Pujara both are quality Test batsmen and whenever they have done well, they have put us in a good position,” Bangar pointed out.

Talking further about Pujara, Bangar said that he had achieved his set targets.

“He himself said that it is one of his best knocks. On the back of it, he has made a big contribution in the second innings as well. The big score had been elusive but he has managed to surpass those obstacles,” added the former India allrounder.

Bangar said that Rahane had been batting well on the previous tours and is very close to scoring a big hundred again.

“Generally we leave it to the batsmen to take a call whether he wants a night-watchman or not. He was pretty keen to go on (in the second innings on day three) and wanted to be out there in the middle. As far as his form goes, he scored runs against West Indies and even in England he had scores in the third, fourth and fifth Tests. It’s just that the hundred has been elusive,” said Bangar

The coach also praised the top-order for an improve showing in the second innings.

“In the second innings we had a better start. It gave us a base. That is what we expect from the opening partnership. When you are playing the first session of the series, there are nerves. Some people are trying to make a comeback. Some have been out of form, so there could be a bit of anxiety,” he said.

Talking about Murali Vijay, who is returning to the side after being dropped midway on the England tour, Bangar said: “Well he is part of the team plan. We are keen that the experience he possesses and the discipline that he can bring to the game.”