The jury is still out whether India’s batsmen can handle quality pace attacks or not but there sure has been a decline in their efforts against spinners. On this Sri Lanka tour, a half-fit Rangana Herath took seven wickets in the second innings of the first Test to send India packing for just 112. Herath ended with 15 wickets each in the series.
Rahul Dravid has recently said how not rotating the strike tends to put a lot of pressure on the batsmen, especially the newer lot. "One of the areas that could be a concern for Indian cricket is that there is a lack of balance; people are either defending or hitting big shots and it easy to set fields to that as you can set in-out fields," Dravid was quoted as saying by espncricinfo.
Former wicket-keeper and national selector Kiran More agreed there has been a steady decline in the way batsmen are facing spinners. "There is a lot of aggression nowadays. Earlier we used to have attacking batsmen but they also backed it up with good defence," More told HT.
"There are a few exceptions but nowadays batsmen are not used to playing on turning wickets. It all boils down to footwork," he said.
In the last five years, India have conceded the most wickets (58 in 13 Tests) to James Anderson but mind boggling is the success spinners have got against India. Be it Nathan Lyon, Graeme Swann, Herath, Monty Panesar or even Moeen Ali, all have gotten a fair bit of success against India in very little time. India have consistently given in to spinners more often than expected in recent years.
This is a huge departure from the times when Shane Warne was famously quoted as saying that he had nightmares after the shellacking meted out by Sachin Tendulkar. Muttiah Muralitharan, who had 800 Test wickets, has got just two five-wicket hauls in 11 Tests he has played in India. In comparison, Panesar has two five-wicket hauls in eight Tests he played in India. And both Lyon and Panesar have got the most success against India. That’s a huge statement by a spinner not from the sub-continent.
Both More and Debu Mitra, who has mentored the likes of Cheteshwar Pujara, feel Sunil Gavaskar's 96 against Pakistan on a minefield of a Bangalore pitch in 1987 should serve as a manual on how to bat against spin on turning tracks. "Not one ball had hit Gavaskar's pads. On spinning tracks, you have to play forward and back. It can't be only about playing forward," said Mitra, who is now coaching Tripura.
He feels the technique needs to be par for the course. "You are finished if you close the bat's face. One has to play straight on turning tracks. Apart from a few players I don’t see much of that," said Mitra.
Praveen Amre, who has coached Ajinkya Rahane, prescribes a few ways in which the problem can be solved. "It’s more a mental problem than technical. I feel the batsmen nowadays are playing more pre-meditated shots. That has to be the last option," the former India batsmen said.
Throughout the tour of Sri Lanka, and more so in the first Test, it appeared that the Indian batsmen came out with a preconceived plan to play everything off the front foot and faltered. "There has to be a balance in the way our batsmen attack spinners and pacers. Key has to be concentration and footwork. They have to be more cautious about shot selection," Amre told HT.