With India beaten by spin in Pune, will the Border-Gavaskar series witness such rank turners anymore in the series? That is one question that should give a headache to the pitch curators at the next three venues. While it remains to be seen how India plan to improve on their game, it would be surprising if another turner is dished out for the rest of the series. (SCORECARD)
Before this defeat, India had last lost at home against England in 2012. The plan of putting the visitors under the pump by preparing turners worked well in the first Test at Ahmedabad but backfired magnificently in Mumbai. India failed to come to terms with Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar, allowing England to pull level and India’s confidence dent for the rest of the series. (HIGHLIGHTS)
While the South Africa series in 2015 too had dustbowls on offer, India were lucky to bat first at Mohali and Nagpur.
In Pune though, India were again given a taste of their own medicine. Earlier, MCA stadium curator Padurang Salgaoncar had suggested preparing a neutral strip but the BCCI pitch committee head Daljit Singh apparently wanted India to have a distinct home advantage.
Like in Mumbai during the England series, the Pune pitch too backfired big time for India. But it’s not about just the nature of the pitch that aided Australia. They were far more disciplined and bowled with a definite set of plans unlike India.
The pitch hadn’t changed for either side. And it wasn’t a slow turner. But both Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja bowled quicker in the air, allowing Australia’s batsmen to nudge them around for runs.
Ashwin and Jadeja usually hunt in pairs but this time, they looked to be on different planes. Jadeja’s strength lies in bowling within the corridor of the stumps and aim for the pads. But in Pune he looked more interested in beating the bat from the fourth stump.
Ashwin, on the other hand, bowled the carom ball more regularly and tried a flatter trajectory. It shortened the pitch of his deliveries, allowing Australia more time for their strokes. All India needed from Ashwin was a fuller length that would have allowed the ball spin and jump from the rough. Ashwin’s strategy in Pune seemed strange since he had reaped the rewards bowling fuller to New Zealand and England.
Nathan Lyon and Steve O’Keefe, on the other hand, tried to ape Swann and Panesar of 2012. Panesar’s inputs showed in the bowling. Lyon kept hitting the rough on the fifth stump while O’Keefe was dead straight. After an O’Keefe delivery that beat Virat Kohli, Smith went behind the keeper and signaled him to change his line from the fourth stump to the middle stump. It resulted in Kohli’s dismissal.
When Lyon bowled to Murali Vijay and KL Rahul, a lot of deliveries kicked from the rough and landed short of short-leg. But Rahul went back and was trapped lbw trying to play for the spin.
Vijay committed the same error of playing for spin against O’Keefe. He bowled slow and aimed the part of the pitch that was still firm, giving the ball less time to turn. Kohli too was dismissed in similar fashion. The dismissals showed the extent to which Australia had planned every dismissal. The pitch had very little to do with it.
The reality right now is that Australia have dented India early. They travel to Bengaluru where Australia have done well in the past. For India to draw level, they will have to implement themselves both with bat and ball, irrespective of the pitch rolled out.