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India vs Australia: Steve Smith & Co start getting priorities right at nets

Australian cricket team cut down on expansive shots, focus on strengthening defence and increasing patience during their first practice session of India tour.

cricket Updated: Feb 16, 2017 14:15 IST
Australia cricket team captain Steven Smith bats during a practice session in Mumbai on Wednesday.
Australia cricket team captain Steven Smith bats during a practice session in Mumbai on Wednesday.(AP)

Apart from skill against the turning ball, Test match batting in the subcontinent can also test one’s patience. It requires one to play out tough periods and wait long for the right ball. From the first practice session on their tour of India, getting into that kind of mindset and rhythm seemed the biggest priority for Australia’s batsmen.

In a session that would have delighted purists, discipline and defence was the focus as Steve Smith and his troops lined up for their nets on Wednesday afternoon at the Brabourne Stadium.

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Australia’s top six batsmen lined up to take strike in pairs in three nets after their lower-order had the first hit. One net was to face pure pace where David Warner and Matt Renshaw batted against the new ball.

The centre net was where all the main spinners were operating and the third had a mix of pacers and spinners. Usman Khawaja paired with Smith, and Shaun Marsh with Peter Handscomb.

Normally explosive with the bat, opener David Warner batted with sage-like patience. Glenn Maxwell played long, first against pacers and then spinners without his helmet, but the big hits and reverse sweeps had been left in his kit bag. In fact there was only one reverse hit from the master of that stroke.

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Under the supervision of batting coach Graeme Hick, coach Darren Lehmann and consultant S Sriram, there was no going after the ball. The lofted hits were also played in the ‘V’ while runs were to be scored either using the feet or by capitalising on the width with controlled pushes, drives, cuts and sweeps.

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Smith has already declared how a strong defence will be vital for his batsmen. “You don’t want people to change their natural games. You have to have that mindset to look to score, but ultimately your defence is what helps you out when you are in trouble,” Smith had said on Tuesday while talking about the balance between attack and defence.

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“It is going to be important that our defences are strong against not only the spin bowlers of India, but also good fast bowlers who present a good seam, can swing the new ball and reverse as well. Defence is going to be incredibly important for us in this series with the bat.”

A good template for batting in these conditions is how India captain Virat Kohli switches gears. Kohli usually accumulates runs at a brisk pace. But when the situation demands and the bowler dictates, he can buckle down to defend.

During his double hundred at the Wankhede Stadium against England, when leg-spinner Adil Rashid was giving nothing away, Kohli went 83 balls without hitting a four. In all his four double hundreds, Kohli has hit only one six.