When Alastair Cook’s England landed in India on the back of the defeat against Bangladesh in the Dhaka Test, they were projected as ‘massive underdogs’ by media and their cricketers for this five-match series against in-form India, who were fresh from their 3-0 victory against New Zealand.
However, as the first Test in Rajkot progressed, it was England who started to push the number ranked India on the backfoot and eventually came significantly close to an unlikely victory. Though in the end, unfortunately, they did not get enough time to bowl India out on the fifth day but one must feel, from the psychological point of view, England have done a significant damage on India’s momentum.
Following their impressive show in the first Test, skipper Cook faced the media.
Here are the excerpts from the conversation.
On the hard-fought match
It’s been a good five days, it’s been a hard five days. Maybe not quite as humid as Bangladesh but it’s been a tough test match. We have played some pretty good cricket, four hundreds, the spinners bowled well. Seamers on a pretty slow wicket were outstanding. I think we got ourselves in a position to try and force a result on day five. It’s disappointing we didn’t quite get over the line but a good test match and everyone is pretty proud of the way we played.
On England’s performance
We probably proved everyone else that we can play. I said at the beginning of the tour that we got some very talented players. Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali for example there and Joe Root is world class. The hundreds we set up, obviously it was a good toss to win, but the way we played to get 530 showed the character on a different wicket. To score those runs was very pleasing and then we did 160 overs of hard graft to keep India below us. We did a lot of very good things just couldn’t quite get over the line.
A brilliant performance all-round especially from the spinners who came in for criticism on really turning wickets. This was a flatter wicket to bowl and they bowled a lot better. They learned that and Saqi I think has made a massive difference for those guys. I was talking about having a chance in the series with the way we played. We got to rest up well, feeling quite jaded now. The lads did 16-170 overs in the first innings which is brutal. We got to rest up well.
Possibly, the reason behind it was that we didn’t want to give India a sniff. Batting sometimes to just survive knowing you will never get the target is a lot different than chasing 260-270. One partnership and on the same wicket, we were 180 for nought. It certainly wasn’t a minefield, the odd ball did a bit. We could afford to put men around the bat and try and grab those half chances. That’s the way I wanted to go. Maybe a braver person would have set 240.
On the Pitch
A lot of balls were turning big but there were not many wickets. Lot of credit to the guys the way they played spin. It was a good test wicket. What we are accustomed to, what we thought we will get. Flat to start with, good toss to win and then turns more and more. As the game goes on it gets a bit uneven. You got to be in it. We played well enough to be in it.
On going past Don Bradman’s 29 Test hundreds
It’s nice to score a few because you don’t get too many nicks out here and if it nicks it doesn’t carry. I don’t know. It’s nice to score runs here. Certainly at the top of the order, if you get in, you saw that in the partnership between Vijay and Pujara, if it’s turning but you get through those first 30-40 balls there’s big scores to be had here. Stats show that. At the top of the order, my responsibility is to do that and luckily my stats here are okay.
On the impressive of Haseeb Hameed
He’s an unbelievable player. He was pushing me close and he’s just a 19-year-old. He’s a find and we have no doubt he can play.
On Ben Stokes
The ODI hundred and 80 odd he got against Bangladesh, one year back he wouldn’t have been able to play that innings. It’s just down to sheer hard work and understanding your game. He’s our golden player, he balances the side, he allows us to play three seamers. He bats at six and on turning wickets, that was probably his last challenge. He’s a brilliant player.
On his batting, especially the nervousness at start
I was probably slightly nervous on the first day of a big series and in the second innings was lot of hard work. Jadeja bowling into the rough with the brand ne ball, close to 60 miles an hour, some turning and some not, so was just trying to get through that. Also probably I haven’t been not in the greatest of forms now. Haven’t really had it in Bangladesh. Probably with the team situation after drinks where we needed to push on freed me up a bit and it helped my game. But there’s still a lot of work to do.
On going forward from here
It gives us the belief that we can play. As a group after what happened in Bangladesh I keep saying that if we play on those wickets we need to readjust. On these wickets, it takes a bit of time to turn and pretty flat to start with. I was confident we will score the runs and confident we can bowl well enough to put India under pressure if we hit the same standards.
On the debate of four-day vs five-day Test cricket
This is what Test cricket, in my opinion, is about. The different circumstances you can play on, the different environments. Going into that last hour, there was everything to play for and that’s what makes it a great game. I thought it was a cracking wicket.