Jason Krejza, Nathan Hauritz and now Nathan Lyon lacked the subcontinent experience, but things could have been different if they enjoyed the backing of the team management. After learning from their mistakes they hardly find that additional opportunity to make amends in following matches or subsequent tours to subcontinent, opines Abhijit Banare.
At the beginning of Day Two, commenting on a circumspect Murali Vijay struggling to find his feet, VVS Laxman pointed to the pressure and insecurity which sometimes gets the batsman out much more easily than getting dismissed by a good delivery.
If the same thought is angled towards the Australian camp a similar story unravels over the spin department which has been largely spoken as the decisive factor between the teams touring India.
In India’s recent 1-2 loss against England at home, Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar were a fairly settled pair for their team, even though Panesar didn’t feature too regularly in the playing XI. With around 90 Test matches between them, the worry of being on the field for the next match was not there. This was evident both in their bowling and more significantly in their body language. Swann and Panesar consistently kept their chin up and had patience usually required on sub-continent pitches. And Alastair Cook’s persistence with his spin department reaped benefits as the series progressed.
In contrast, Lyon and other spinners who are yet to cement their place in the team still seems to be largely concerned where the next wicket is going to come from to salvage pride. And more so whether they will even remain in the team for the next match at all. Such insecurity can’t be entirely blamed on the player. These signs were visible even for an experienced campaigner like Harbhajan Singh during the Chennai Test.
During these situations the planning to set up a batsman takes a backseat and the anxiousness to get some numbers in the wicket column becomes the only goal. In the process, the Aussie spinners stuck to their line rather than being flexible and planning to target according to the strengths and weakness of the batsmen. In the first Test, the sight of Virat Kohli consistently scoring through the covers off Lyon and Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara earning their runs in a similar fashion on Day Two of the ongoing Test are evidences of not having a plan B.
Lack of experience can be put aside to some extent if the bowler enjoys backing of his captain. Clarke’s decision to bench Lyon — touted as their best bet this summer — did anything but signaling of a white flag going into the field at Hyderabad. On any given tour, lack of faith in your lead spinner right after the first match of the series shows how confused the visitor’s camp is at the moment and reflects in the mindset of the spinners as well.
Glenn Maxwell being drafted for the job of second spinner is equivalent to England relying on Samit Patel after Graeme Swann or India banking upon Ravindra Jadeja with the just Ashwin featuring in the playing XI. While the chances of them clicking with the ball aren’t great, it instead fires up the opposition batsmen more often than not. And with this mindset picking Steven Smith as a spinner from hereon might be another blunder waiting to happen.
While many have been shaken slightly with Jadeja’s success, Dermot Reeve made some good observations on TV on Jadeja’s bowling during the Tea session. He spoke about the angle of the arm while delivering the ball — the difference between Jadeja, Doherty and Maxwell. While the Australian duo was busy delivering with a straighter arm, the Indian left-armer reaped benefits of angling the delivery and successfully foxing the batsmen. The straighter ones from Doherty and Maxwell failed to create any threatening effect on the Indian batsmen except the odd balls which buttered past the edges.
To end on a positive note for the Kangaroos, Doherty’s effort to keep it tight in the first session of Day Two was laudable and looked positive despite failing to beat the batsmen as much as he would have hoped for. Moving into the second session, the orthodox bowler somehow looked less threatening and within no time the batsmen had completely taken over the game, thus all the efforts of the morning was washed away.
Representing at the international level, both Lyon and Doherty are bowlers who will have plenty of valuable lessons to take back and will be keen to apply it and come back once again with new venom. But that’s where the faith of the captain in particular and team management in general will be crucial. They’ll be well aware that even Nathan Hauritz and Jason Krejza had similar thoughts after having a pale outing in India but that one additional chance failed to come by for them. If the Aussies have to create a reliable spin option they’ll have to fight the critics and stand behind their spinners from hereon.
(Like most Indians, Abhijit Banare has been obsessed with cricket since childhood. He is an avid follower, smitten by statistics and analysis. A journalism student in Mumbai, he considers himself lucky to have grown up watching batting legends like Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid. He also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)
First Published: March 4, 2013, 10:08 am