Batting coach Michael Di Venuto cited the position of strength Australia had reached in Delhi before a 90-minute “car wreck in slow motion” ended their dreams of a historic series victory to reaffirm the conviction Australia has in their strategies on spin-friendly Indian pitches.
As the second Test swung slightly in favour of the visitors, Australia had forced their opponents to adopt more defensive field positionings thanks to an 86-run lead, eight second-innings wickets in hand, and the presence of their two most proficient spinners, Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith, at the crease.
Following Smith’s departure for an infrequently used sweep shot, the men’s team experienced one of its most spectacular batting collapses in recent memory, losing eight wickets for 28 runs in 13 “frenetic” overs of havoc. As many as six Australian batters fell while sweeping or reverse-sweeping in the innings.
“Plans certainly weren’t wrong,” cricket.com.au quoted Di Venuto as saying in Delhi.
“Our plans are good, but if people go away from their plans they’re going to get in trouble, as we saw. We were almost ahead of the game, and the feeling just looking at it was ‘geez, if we just get another 50 runs real quick’ which you can’t do in this country. We’ve spoken about that, so it’s not like it’s something new. But pressure does strange things and we saw a lot of people go out and try and sweep their way to a score. It’s not all doom and gloom, but the 90 minutes of batting certainly wasn’t anything special,” he added.
The criticism of Australia’s batting following their six-wicket loss in Delhi, when India held a commanding 2-0 lead in the four-test series, has focused primarily on the loss of six second-inning wickets to sweep shots.
Di Venuto observes that the stroke is rarely used by Indian hitters when playing at home and that it entails a significant risk for players who aren’t skilled at using it in other situations, but he advises against requests for its elimination from the visitors’ toolkit.
“Uz (Khawaja) played beautifully in the first innings (at Delhi), and has through Pakistan and the subcontinent. It (sweeping) is part of his game, but he also picks the balls to do it. It’s smart, he’s not using it as a form of defence and I think that’s what happened towards the back end (of Australia’s second innings),” Di Venuto said.
“People weren’t trusting their defence so started trying to sweep, which is the wrong way to go about it. But when you’re under pressure and you panic, and you’re not trusting your defence, sometimes it is ‘I’ve just got to get up the other end’ and how do you do that? The sweep shot the other day seemed to be the way they were trying to do it, which is not the ideal way on a spinning wicket with variable bounce. It’s common sense, but that’s pressure. If you’re coming over here, and you’re not a sweeper but you’re trying to sweep, that’s not going to work and I think we had some good examples of that,” he added.
India will play Australia in Indore for the third Test that starts on March 1 while the fourth Test will be played in Ahmedabad from March 9. (ANI)