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India thrashed Australia in both test matches of the Border Gavaskar Trophy. There was a lot of expectation from the Australian team as they had a settled squad to compete in the series. But Australia failed to rise to the occasion and was bogged down by the relentless pressure applied by the Indian bowlers.
There was a lot of discussion and debate about the pitch even before the first ball was bowled. Australian media called the pitch “doctored”. Let us have a look at the possible reason why the Australia team are falling short in the ongoing Border Gavaskar Trophy:
Fear of turning tracks
Australia let the fear of spin enter their minds even before the series. Instead of playing to the merit of the ball, they were preconceived that the ball would grip and one tried to ‘sweep’ out of the trouble. But this played to the hands of the Indian bowlers due to their deadly accurate bowling. They let their ‘fear of spin’ overcome their instincts and were caught at the crease by the hungry Indian bowling attack.
Ashwin who is a nightmare for left-handers instilled fear in the Australian batters even before the series. Mahesh Pithiya, who has a similar action to Ashwin was flown to Bangalore where Australians started their tour preparations to counter the ‘Ashwin threat’.
Indian batters especially Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, and Axar Patel did not worry much about the pitch or the amount of spin the Australian bowlers were getting. They played to the merit of the ball without trying to do anything out of the box like sweeping or playing cross batted shots. Indian Batters were either fully forward or fully backward and were ready to wait for the loose ball offered to them. They did not try sweeps or reverse sweeps if an oddball jumped past their bat. The Indian batters used their crease and feet to negate the turn.
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Playing with batters’ patience
Indian bowlers made run-scoring extremely difficult for the Australia batters in the first test of Border Gavaskar Trophy and played with their patience resulting in a loose shot from the batter. With highly accurate Indian bowlers, the Aussie batters could not rotate strikes freely and thus needed to do something different. Labuschange saw one floated outside off where he thought he could drill it past covers but the ball spun past his bat and KS Bharat stumped him out. Alex Carey got out playing reverse sweep in both innings in the first test. Usman Khawaja tried to play a cover drive to a ball turning away from him from the rough which resulted in his downfall. 7 out of the 20 wickets in the second test fell in trying to play a sweep shot to the ball which did not mean to be swept. Meanwhile, India let the Australian bowlers earn their wickets.
Quality of the Indian bowling attack
The Indian spinners were far superior compared to their counterparts. The Australian batters were constantly kept under pressure as the Indian bowlers bowled tight lines. Indian spinners especially Ashwin quickly read the pitch and made the necessary changes in the bowling. He took time to settle, but he understood the pace and bounce of the pitch. Instead of getting an excessive turn, the Indian bowlers used ‘enough spin’ to their advantage with a lethal arm ball. While Australian batters challenged the outside edge of the batsmen, the Indian spinners constantly challenged both the edges of the bat. Ashwin was using his bag of tricks to his advantage whereas Jadeja and Axar relied on their pinpoint accuracy to take wickets.
In the first test, Australian spinners did not have variety as Lyon and Murphy both are off-spinners. Murphy bowled flatter and quicker and hence reaped rewards while Lyon relied on the bounce off the pitch to get the Indian wickets, as he often does in Australia, and hence could not bowl the Indian line and length often.
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India’s batting depth in home conditions
India has insane batting depth on turning pitches. Axar Patel who bats at number 9 has an average of 33 in first-class cricket. Lower-order runs are crucial in tight games and the Indian batting lineup is always able to get 40-50 odd runs more than expected due to their batting lineup. In the first test, Axar and Ravindra Jadeja contributed 22% of India’s total and hence were able to get a huge lead of 220 runs. Australia’s last 5 wickets contributed only 15 runs in the first innings. The Axar-Ashwin partnership again proved to be game-changing in the second test. When Australia was running away with a handy first-innings lead, the duo stitched 114 runs for the eighth wicket giving Australia a lead of just one run.
Selection Blunders & Injuries
Australia has dealt with a heavy blow to injuries to their fast bowlers Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood. The injury to Cameron Green who adds stability to the lineup is a major miss in the Australian lineup.
At Nagpur, Australia dropped the in-form batter Travis Head and played Renshaw in his place. This is again a case of conditions dictating the selection and not the form of players.
Australia played a similar type of spinners in Lyon and Murphy. India has struggled against left-arm spinners since the early 2020s. The Kangaroos have not shown enough faith in their left-arm spinner Ashton Agar who was supposed to partner Lyon in this series. Left arm off-spinner Matthew Kuhneman, the debutant played ahead of Ashton Agar and Mitchell Swepson who were the second and the third choice spinner for Australia. This shows the muddled approach of the Australian selectors.