SPINNING LESSONS – AUSTRALIA FAIL EXAMINATION

Didn’t take too long for the knives to come out following Australia’s humiliating innings and 132 run defeat in the first test of the three test cricket series for the Border/Gavaskar Trophy in India.

SPIN CLINIC - Ravi Ashwin the magician

Former captain Allan Border called the performance ‘pathetic’ and criticised Steve Smith for being too friendly in acknowledging a great delivery which beat his bat.

That really is Desperate Dan stuff from Border. The game has thankfully changed from his playing days, many of these players in the India and Aussie teams play in T20 league teams together around the world and are friends.

The big problem Australia had was the selection and whoever devised the tactics to be used against that brilliant Indian spin attack of Ravindran Jadeja and Ravi Ashwin.

Leaving Travis Head out of their team was mind-blowingly stupid. The brilliant left-hander had just averaged 79 in his previous six tests in Australia and although his previous record in Asia was poor, surely he would have learnt from that. His replacement Matt Renshaw looked like a fish out of water, making a golden duck and two. 

RESCUE MISSION - Surely Travis Head comes back into the Aussie lineup

Coach Andrew McDonald must take a share of the blame too. Whoever devised the tactic of sitting deep in the crease and trying to play the spinners off the back foot needs a stern talking too. Ten Australian batsman were out LBW during the test including six in the second innings.

You suspect the Aussies were psyched out by the pitch before the match even started. While the ball did turn and prodigiously at times, it was no worse than what touring teams face when going to Australia having to cope with their tailor made fast bouncy pitches or the green tops prepared for tests in New Zealand.

The majority of the Australian batsman were dismissed by deliveries which did not spin but went straight through, beaten in the air then being anchored to the crease or behind it.

India played on the same pitch and it was noticeable how their captain Roit Sharma tried to get forward as much as possible and made a brilliant 120.

India’s middle order and tail also made significant runs. Two reasons for that apart from excellent batting, was the chances dropped by Australia and skipper Pat Cummins lack of immagination, tending to let things drift along without trying something different, anything really, crowd the bat, bowl a few bouncers with a couple of fielders back. Poor performance by him.

MITCH STARC - set to return

Also it’s not often you see Australian test cricket sides sit back and not try to take the initiative. They just stayed anchored to the crease and let the Indian spinners settle in and totally dictate terms. Alex Carey was out twice reverse sweeping but at least he tried to improvise and did make it to over 30 runs in the first innings.

Touring India is obviously the Mt Everest for visiting test teams. India has lost just two of their last 43 test matches at home and you can bet the groundsman and everyone else involved will do everything in their powers to help the home side.

The ground staff at Nagpur certainly did that, even afterwards. The Aussies were given permission to practice on the test pitch after it ended over two days early but before they could get out there the pitch had been watered in preparation for the next match.

Australia’s poor performances against spin bowling overseas is nothing new as previously shown in series defeats to Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. It seems those lessons have not been learned from.

I would expect a fit again left-arm quick Mitchell Starc to come in for Scott Boland for the second test starting on Friday. Opener David Warner is nowhere at present, really struggling but the selectors are likely to stick with him. Not so Matt Renshaw, surely Travis Head replaces him.

Queensland off-spinner Matt Kuhnemann has been flown over to replace leg-spinner Mitch Swepson who has returned home to be with his wife as they are expecting a baby.

If Head does come into the team it will also add to Australia’s spin bowling options because he’s a more than useful off-spinner so the chances of Kuhnemann playing are slim.

Surely the Aussies will use a more aggressive approach in the second test and try and get forward as much as possible and at least try and unsettle the brilliant Indian spin attack.

Easier said than done though and although likely to be a much more competitive match, I can’t see India losing a test match in this series.

Meanwhile in New Zealand the much anticipated New Zealand v England two-match test series is scheduled to begin in Tauranga on Thursday. You can bet neither team will die wondering in their approach with England captained by Kiwi-born Ben Stokes and coached by one of New Zealand’s cricket greats Brendon McCallum. 

Expect plenty of batting fireworks whatever the conditions, although the chances of that match starting on time must surely be in doubt given the terrible and devastating weather conditions hitting the country over the last few days.

Interview & Story by John Alexander | Supporting Images sourced by Absolutely Famous.

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