And the left-handed batter continued his rich vein of form in the final Test by smashing his third fifty of the series. Axar (79) put on a huge 162-run stand with Virat Kohli for the sixth wicket to help India take a 91-run first-innings lead.
Axar and Kohli both displayed their calm demeanour during their stand and accelerated their game after India went into the lead.
But the Gujarat all-rounder said there wasn’t any specific message from the dressing room and Kohli told him to continue playing positively.
“When I was batting with Virat bhai, there wasn’t any specific message from the team. Virat bhai told me to continue playing positively, like I do. Once we got set, bowlers weren’t getting much assistance off the pitch too. Once I got set, I was connecting deliveries which were in my radar.
“Virat bhai was also saying that 50 is now done and I can think big since 22 overs were left in day’s play. There was no message around declaration or playing fast. The way pitch was and he was batting on 150 and I was over 50, so runs were coming in the flow.”
Axar scored 264 runs with three fifty-plus knocks with an astonishing average of 88 – highest in the ongoing match.
Even if the Motera track is considered placid, the 22-yard strips at Jamtha and Kotla did pose their own sets of challenges and the southpaw was up for it.
“When we started with the camp in Nagpur, we knew we will be playing on turning tracks. I didn’t prepare or plan much but did my own study for playing on spinning tracks,” Axar told mediapersons after the end of the fourth day’s play in the fourth and final Test here.
So, what was the basic plan that he followed?
“I just prepared myself to stand on the leg-stump to keep a check on the possible leg-before and stumping, since these are the two modes of dismissals that can happen on turning tracks. I also planned to not step out much against off-spinners. I was getting myself ready for these things before the series started,” Axar said about his plans.
The easy going all-rounder laughed when asked if he regretted missing out on three possible centuries.
“You have rubbed salt to wounds (laughs). The way I was batting… and I know the chances I have missed don’t come often. Bade run karne the (had to score big).
“The positive thing is that I batted the way I wanted to and we had a good partnership (with Virat Kohli) when the team needed it. I am thinking about what you said (smiles again) but not thinking too much about it right now. I might feel (bad) about it more when I get back to the room.”
The next possible Test match could be World Test Championship final against Australia at the Oval in London and India might just go in with a single spinner and that would possibly be Ravindra Jadeja.
“What you are saying about me getting the place in XI (for WTC final), it’s not in my hands and I can’t do anything about it. I am performing in the chances I am getting and focus on what’s in my hands. Coach and captain decide the XI and my job is to perform consistently and earn that place in the XI.”
“You people only wanted five-day Tests”
The first three Tests finished well inside three days and a question popped up if he is surprised that the match went into fifth day.
“After first three matches, everyone said game ended in three days. Now match is going to fifth day, and you are saying it’s a surprise. It’s not in our hands,” Axar said.
“We thought we will get purchase from the wicket but we didn’t. We have to play according to the wicket. We were a little surprised that only first innings ended in the first four days. We can’t do much and can hope that we come tomorrow and win,” he concluded.
(With PTI Inputs)