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Australia need to develop a strategy against spin bowling

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    Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan. AP Photo/Aman Sharma

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    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.

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    The Crowd Says (13)

    • Roar Guru

      January 9th 2013 @ 3:39am
      peeeko said | January 9th 2013 @ 3:39am | ! Report

      also a strategy how to play against a ball that swings

    • January 9th 2013 @ 7:02am
      Kersi Meher-Homji said | January 9th 2013 @ 7:02am | ! Report

      A thoght-provoking debut in Roar, gavjoshi. Hope Michael Clarke reads it and acts on it.

      Not only should Oz batsmen watch the footwork of Dravid and Tendulkar against spinners but also the Indian batsmen, Tendulkar himself included. They looked clueless against the spin of Monty Panesar and Swann last month.

    • January 9th 2013 @ 7:43am
      Dadiggle said | January 9th 2013 @ 7:43am | ! Report

      Weight on the back foot, front foot lightly placed on the ground, and the head forwards. aka Ranjitsinjhi principle

    • January 9th 2013 @ 9:09am
      Atawhai Drive said | January 9th 2013 @ 9:09am | ! Report

      Isn’t it the case that Cowan has spent a lot of time practising the sweep, with Hayden as his mentor?

      I also read somewhere that Cowan’s been taking an off-stump guard, which gets your head in the right place for the sweep.

      I never did master the sweep. No matter who is sweeping, it looks like a high-risk shot.

      • January 9th 2013 @ 4:00pm
        Dadiggle said | January 9th 2013 @ 4:00pm | ! Report

        Clubbers are going to have problems against spin. Timers can sweep or play any shot in the book against spin because they use their wrist and depends on timing rather than power

      • January 9th 2013 @ 6:13pm
        Rob from Brumby Country said | January 9th 2013 @ 6:13pm | ! Report

        I was a compulsive sweeper back in my cricket-playing days. Based on my humble experience, I would say that the key to the sweepshot is to do everything right; to get down into position early, to keep your eyes level, and to roll your wrists as you play through the shot.

        It’s not a risky shot if you aren’t trying to play it to every ball. The rule that I was taught was that anything that drops short should be pulled or swept unless it’s well-outside off (in which case you cut). Anything pitched up should be driven or defended. Good and liberal footwork is the key.

    • January 9th 2013 @ 9:13am
      Frankie Hughes said | January 9th 2013 @ 9:13am | ! Report

      Sweeping takes a lifetime to master. Plus in the age of DRS, if you miss the sweep the umpire will give you out.

      Easier solution is to come down the pitch and belt the spinner out of the ground

      • January 9th 2013 @ 3:54pm
        Dadiggle said | January 9th 2013 @ 3:54pm | ! Report

        Unless your name is AB De Villiers.

        Btw you can not charge every ball you face just ask Michael Clarke….

      • January 9th 2013 @ 6:23pm
        Rob from Brumby Country said | January 9th 2013 @ 6:23pm | ! Report

        Coming down the wicket is a good way to cow a spinner into dropping his deliveries a bit shorter. It is absolutely a skill that every batsman should have, particularly as it is really the only way to negate the unpredictable spin from balls pitched on a full or good length.

        But you can’t come down the pitch to every ball, and it would be stupid to do so. All the spinner has to do is pitch it a bit shorter, and then you’re back to square 1 – only this time you’re out of your crease and you have less time to react to the ball.

        You have to pick the flight of the ball as it is coming out of the hand. If it is pitching a bit shorter, you stay back in your crease and you sweep or cut. If it is on a good length and threatening your stumps, you come out of your crease to meet the ball where it pitches. If it is full, then it suffices to just get a good stride in and drive or defend.

        Sweeping does not take a lifetime to master. A few net sessions at most should suffice for a batsman to learn the fundamentals of the shot. The trickiest part is to know when to use it; and to do that you have to learn to pick the flight of the ball as it is leaving the bowler’s hand. But that is important for any aspect of facing spin-bowling!

    • January 9th 2013 @ 10:21am
      Tony Tea said | January 9th 2013 @ 10:21am | ! Report

      So, what exactly were Cook’s “tactics in countering the Indian spinners”?

      • January 9th 2013 @ 8:41pm
        Frankie Hughes said | January 9th 2013 @ 8:41pm | ! Report

        Cook hardly showed great skill playing the Indian spinners…

        He was fortunate with the shocking umpiring that he was able to score runs in the 1st and 2nd Test v

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