His­tory beck­ons Down Un­der

Sportstar - - THE PROVING GROUND - S. DINAKAR

In­dia has a good op­por­tu­nity to beat Aus­tralia in a Test se­ries down un­der, a feat it has never ac­com­plished. While the Aus­tralian bat­ting is vul­ner­a­ble right now and tends to crum­ble in pres­sure sit­u­a­tions, In­dia has the qual­ity in bowl­ing. Without the mer­cu­rial David Warner and the in­flu­en­tial Steve Smith, there are huge holes in this Aus­tralian line­up — un­less their bans for ball tam­per­ing dur­ing the tour of South Africa ear­lier this year are dra­mat­i­cally lifted ahead of the four­test se­ries.

In­dia has to clean up its bat­ting act. Both in South Africa and Eng­land, the line­up de­pended heav­ily on skip­per Vi­rat Kohli. In both these chal­leng­ing away se­ries, In­dia com­peted hard but lost key mo­ments since its bat­ting could not come to­gether as a strong, re­silient unit.

In the end, only the fi­nal score­line of the se­ries mat­ters. This team, not short of de­sire, needs to put re­sults on the table against the stronger, non­sub­con­ti­nen­tal teams away from home.

Both South Africa and Eng­land were able to make early in­roads and — Kohli apart — the mid­dle or­der lacked con­sis­tency.

The con­di­tions were de­mand­ing both in South Africa and Eng­land, and the ball swung, seamed around and bounced. And the foot­work of the In­dian bats­men — again, save Kohli — came un­der scru­tiny. Gone were the big runs on home soil; this was a dif­fer­ent ball game.

Without foot­work, a tight game and cal­cu­lated stroke­play without slip­ping into a neg­a­tive mind­set, it is hard to com­bat the mov­ing ball de­liv­ered at some pace on such tracks. Play­ing away from the body, launch­ing into big drives and not cov­er­ing up for de­vi­a­tion can be fa­tal when the ball seams around.

And the big names have to de­liver. There were some runs from Chetesh­war Pu­jara and Ajinkya Ra­hane in Eng­land, but their con­tri­bu­tions were few and far be­tween. They are key bats­men and need to lift their game. Ra­hane will have good mem­o­ries of Aus­tralia from the 2014­15 tour where he cut and pulled with panache.

The pitches in Aus­tralia will surely not probe the bats­men’s tech­nique as re­lent­lessly as the ones in South Africa and Eng­land did. They will have bounce, but not as much move­ment off the seam or swing. Strong back­foot play and ef­fec­tive use of hor­i­zon­tal bat shots will be cru­cial.

The Kook­aburra ball should do less too for the pace­men than the Duke — used in Eng­land — that has a more prom­i­nent seam. But then, the In­dian bats­men will have to counter a top­notch Aussie pace line­up of Mitchell Starc, Josh Ha­zle­wood and Pat Cum­mins. All three are fit and fir­ing again.

Starc could be men­ac­ing with his lef­t­armer’s an­gle, speed and in­tim­i­dat­ing bounce. He is a strike bowler and an en­forcer, and can get the ball to swing into the bats­man. Ha­zle­wood will be at the bats­men, peg­ging around the off stump, giv­ing lit­tle away and ex­am­in­ing them with his two­way de­vi­a­tion. And the bustling Cum­mins de­liv­

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