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HindustanTimes Fri,24 Oct 2014

Cricket

Pace test awaits tentative India, tackling spin on Australia’s mind
Sanjjeev K Samyal, Hindustan Times
Jaipur, October 16, 2013
First Published: 00:48 IST(16/10/2013)
Last Updated: 10:13 IST(16/10/2013)

First on the ground, Shikhar Dhawan faced throwdowns for more than half-an-hour before the rest of the India team made it to the Rajasthan Cricket Association Academy (RCA).

The wicket had a tinge of grass and the left-handed batsman tuned his batting to the fast and swinging ball.

Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Yuvraj Singh batted at the net put up on the centre wicket and also took throwdowns. Ducking occasionally, Yuvraj negotiated the short ball while Rohit faced most of the deliveries pitched up to him on the off-stump. Among the pacers, Ishant Sharma and Vinay Kumar were made to target the yorker length to improve their death bowling record.

Later, when it was the Australians’ turn to use the RCA facility, of their four nets, two were reserved for the spinners.

James Faulkner and later Aaron Finch bowled slow left-arm spinners, and at the adjacent one, batsmen played Xavier Doherty and a couple of off-spinners.

There were enough hints on the eve of the second one-dayer at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium as to what is on the mind of the two teams. The onus is on India to come up with a strategy to counter the Australians, who unexpectedly, floored the hosts in Pune with their pace strength.

The net session was an indication that the Australians are anticipating what the hosts will be up to. Skipper MS Dhoni will be banking on his team’s strength, which has always been spin.

Left is right
In the opener too, the home team’s best bowlers were left-armers Ravindra Jadeja and Yuvraj Singh. The Saurashtra player was the most economical bowler while Yuvraj showed that his golden arm still had some magic with two big wickets.

That the India bowling attack was still outperformed had to do with the below-par showing of R Ashwin. Australia’s strategy to target the lanky off-spinner was successful in the Twenty20 game, where Ashwin was used for only two overs, and again at Pune, taking the India think-tank by surprise.

It’s obvious that the visitors see him as the main threat and are ready to take a few risks to unsettle him. How Ashwin copes with the pressure will hold the key to India’s fortunes in the series.  The Jaipur wicket generally offers decent bounce, which will be to Australia’s liking. The spinners, however, can prove effective with their variation.

Aaron Finch and Glenn Maxwell have been targetting Ashwin by hitting him with the spin in the midwicket region. The Sawai Mansingh Stadium will allow the off-spinner more cushion as the square boundary is comparatively bigger.

A three-pronged spin attack bowling well can be a handful for any team in the subcontinent, and it’s something George Bailey’s team is wary of.

Virat said India would be reworking their bowling strategy. “Australia came out all guns blazing in the last two games. We need to counter that, make them work for their runs. We need to plan a lot better against their batsmen. Not allow them to come out and express themselves so freely. Try to get into tough situations and make situations tough for them.”

With six games to go, lot of cricket is left to be played but Wednesday’s game will be crucial because another reversal will make the pressure unbearable for the home team.


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