Cricket is a game that depends a lot on the conditions, and sometimes pitches end up being discussed more than the actual play. The first day's play in Pune was an example that cricket can outdo itself. A toilet break, and misplaced macho reactions from former Australian cricketers, dominated the discussion on a day that the pitch actually deserved a lot more talk. India opened the bowling with spin, and the ball began to turn square well before the first hour was out. Sometimes it did so to the detriment of India spinners, who kept missing the edge because of the huge turn.
Sanjay Bangar, India's batting coach, said playing on such pitches was an important part of the variety of Test cricket. "When you go to England, you have to negotiate the seaming ball," Bangar said. "In Australia you negotiate the bouncing ball, and when you come to India you negotiate the turning ball. If you see, at the end of the day the score is still 256 for 9. A lot of runs have been scored. The batsmen who have applied themselves have shown that runs can be scored on this track. It's not that there were unplayable balls. We [Indian team] never complain of anything when we go abroad, and it's just day one of a Test match. We are hopeful about what stands to come out of the next four days of cricket."
Bangar did concede that the Pune pitch generally favours batsmen more than bowlers, but reserved his judgement on the pitch until both sides had batted on it. Australia's application on a demanding pitch, though, impressed Bangar. They prioritised defence, and made sure they didn't get beaten on the inside edge by the straighter balls.
"You could see that they were working hard, they were trusting their defence, used their feet quite a bit," Bangar said. "So all facets of good batsmanship against spin bowling. We could see that they really applied themselves against our spinners today.
"Being good at facing spin bowling requires a lot of skill. It tests you quite a bit. Playing fast bowling is all about courage, but when playing spin, you have to make sure that your feet are to the pitch of the ball. If it's a turning ball, you have to be right on top of it to negotiate it. If there's bounce on offer, shot selection becomes crucial. So all facets of batsmanship are tested playing against a quality spin attack like India. They showed a lot of application, and because of that they are able to be in the position that they are in."
Australia's position could have been weaker. They had negotiated the good balls for long periods, but their concentration did break. Shaun Marsh played an ordinary shot, and Australia managed to lose three quick wickets to Umesh Yadav after frustrating the spinners. However, from 205 for 9, Mitchell Starc carried them to a position of hope with an innings full of clever attack and solid defence even as the rest of the team changed into their whites and prepared to take the field. As it turned out, they didn't need to field. Australia finished the day on 256 for 9, and Bangar reckoned it was 25 too many.
"Obviously we would have been very happy had we batted in the evening," Bangar said. "But we have done it to a lot of opponents in the past wherein our lower order has contributed quite a bit. All credit to Starc. He came out and backed himself and played some good shots. Because of that partnership they were able to end the day in a good position. I think we were expecting them to be bowled out for around 230 or less than that. But they applied themselves well. It came off for them."