Langer’s batting dilemma comes out of left field
HERE is the damning statistical evidence that could cost Marcus Harris a fairytale Test debut.
Australian selectors want to rubberstamp Harris over fellow Victorian Peter Handscomb for the summer-opening blockbuster in Adelaide but are panicking about the extraordinary hold Indian spinner Ravi Ashwin has over left-hand batsmen.
It’s not that Harris is necessarily more vulnerable, but if he plays that will mean four out of Australia’s top six will be lefthanders with a target on their heads for Ashwin turning the ball away from the bat.
Dubbed by Steve Waugh as “the Bradman of bowlers”, Ashwin is one of the greatest spinners in the history of the game.
According to CricVis, against left-hand batters he averages a wicket every 19.93 runs, an absolute world-class record, 31.50 against righties.
When it comes to top-six batsmen, Ashwin’s strong suit is even more profound, averaging 22.91 against lefties and 43.50 against right-handers.
Australian coach Justin Langer knows that picking the right-handed Peter Handscomb at No.4 at the expense of leftie Harris could provide him more balance in the order when it comes to handling Ashwin. It’s an important decision. Ashwin’s main victims in Test cricket are left-hand stars.
He has got David Warner and Alastair Cook out nine times each — two of the best openers of their generation.
Ashwin also got Ed Cowan’s number seven times in just 13 innings during the former Australian left-hander’s career.
Top order lefties Ben Stokes, Phil Hughes, Darren Bravo and Dean Elgar are some of Ashwin’s other victims.
Langer has made it clear the only choice he has left to make with his batting line-up is Harris or Handscomb.
If Harris plays, it would be four straight lefties from him at the top, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh and through to Travis Head at No.5.
But if selectors go Handscomb, Khawaja would open, Marsh to No.3 and then the right-handed Victorian to break things up at No.4 before Head comes in at No.5.