Australia need to develop a strategy against spin bowling
Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan. AP Photo/Aman Sharma
Matthew Hayden spent countless hours practising the sweep shot on a dry Allan Border field pitch before the Indian tour of 2001.
Damien Martyn allegedly watched innumerable tapes of Tendulkar and Dravid’s footwork against spinners before the 2004 tour.
Both batsmen went on to top the series averages in the respective tours.
By the way the Australian batsmen handled Sri Lankan spinner Rangana Herath at the SCG this week, it is imperative they devise a solution to tackle spin like Hayden and Martyn did.
Apart from Michael Clarke, each of the batsmen looked clueless against the guile of Herath. Their only form of attack was to get their pad outside the line of the stumps and attempt an extravagant sweep. The shot eventually led to the demise of Cowan, Hughes and Wade.
Relying solely on the sweep against spinners in the sub-continent beckons disaster as the English found out against Pakistan in February last year (England lost 3-0).
To their credit the English batsmen came back to the sub-continent with fresh strategies to tackle spin and beat India only eight months later.
The catalyst of the England victory was their captain Alastair Cook. Ed Cowan might be long way off Alastair Cook as yet but there batting techniques share some resemblance.
Apart from both being left handed, both score a majority of their runs off the back foot, horizontal bat shots are foundations of their game and both like to accumulate.
As Ed Cowan takes a breather from the ODIs, it might be wise for him to watch tapes of Alastair Cook’s tactics in countering the Indian spinners.
The other option for Cowan and his other sweep happy mates is to practice the shot persistently on a dry wicket against spinners, like Matthew Hayden did leading up to the Indian tour.
But that is a distant thought considering players such as Wade, Warner and Hughes will be all be featuring in white ball cricket on bouncy pitches at home until seven days before the first Test match in Delhi.
If there was any assurance then in comes in the form of Indian spinners. Ravi Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha are still relatively new to Test cricket and are still learning the art of outsmarting the batsmen and breaking down their strategies.
The other consolation for likes of Cowan, Warner, Wade and co is the pitches they played on in the West Indies last year were similar to those they will bat on in India.
But even in the series against the West Indies the Australian batting was exposed by a mediocre spinner in Shane Shillingford and the part time spin of Narsingh Deonarine.
The West Indies meagre batting and Australia’s eventual series victory ensured the spin deficiencies were swept under the carpet.
One guarantee is Australia will need more runs against India than they scored against West Indies if they are to have any hope of winning Test matches there.
Michael Clarke not only needs to score heavily again but also needs to pass on his expertise of playing spin bowling to his batting comrades.
Judging by the test in Sydney, Australia face a stern test and unless a formula is derived on tackling spin bowling a series victory is unlikely.