Sunday, February 26, 2017

1st Test: Aussies were better equipped to handle turning track

Steven Smith is jubilant after scoring a 100 on Saturday. Pic/Prakash Parsekar

Pune: After being constantly peppered with questions about the Test series against India for over a month, Australia skipper Steve Smith at the post-match conference finally spoke about the belief of winning a Test series in India.

Smith and Australia have played this cleverly. They have preferred to concentrate on the small picture and focus on the processes rather than speak openly about winning the series. The key part of that preparation was to ensure the batsmen and bowlers were better equipped to handle spin bowling on turning tracks.

In for a shock
For the past nine Test matches, India have been exceptional on pitches that have only aided turn from the third or fourth day onwards. Here, they were in for a shock and were caught napping. The spinners failed to bowl that yard fuller and the batsmen continued to lunge at viciously spinning deliveries.

On the contrary, the Australians had been simulating to bat on such pitches for the last two weeks. They adapted by playing the ball later than the Indian batsmen and ensured that they were not mentally scared by balls that spun past the outside edge.

Steve Smith. Pic/PTI

Smith’s masterclass
Smith’s masterclass on a rank turner was a classic example of Australia’s preparations. The Aussie skipper showed the likes of Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli and Murali Vijay how to bat on rank turners by taking his pad out of the equation and constantly playing inside the line. He also preferred to play off the back foot. It was a theory he had worked on right through the Australian summer.

The fact that even man of the match, Steve O’Keefe has managed to outperform Ravindra Jadeja on a pitch that the Indian spinner would have dreamt about, showcased the amount of homework, the Aussie orthodox spinner had done for the past month. The minute he realised the ball was spinning so much, he decided to bowl from wider of the crease which meant he reduced the amount of deviation at the batsmen. This ensured he kissed the outside edge while Jadeja kept missing it.

O’Keefe was aware of such subtleties while Jadeja had forgotten about them, largely because of the fact that he had been bowling on decent batting tracks throughout the home season. Whether India deliberately asked for such pitch or not is one matter but the reality is that the Australia were better equipped to handle such a pitch, both physically and mentally.

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