While the pitch has been the major talking point after the Pink Ball Test between India and England at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad, another aspect that has come under the scanner is the troubles batsmen faced against spinners.
Former India batsman VVS Laxman says that it is essential to have the right mindset and technique in such difficult conditions.
“There is no doubt it’s possible to score on these pitches. You have to have the right mix of technique and mindset. You have to have belief in your defence. If you don’t, your mind is restless, shot selection becomes problematic, decision-making translates into poor footwork, into reaching towards the ball, picking the length wrongly, and that will lead to your dismissal. You will look out of place batting on these surfaces,” Laxman was quoted as saying by The Guardian.
“Defence doesn’t mean just taking a long stride forward. Defence is where you’re transferring your body weight, and your stride is just so long that you can get bat in front of pad,” Laxman explained further.
“If the stride is too long, the bat is behind pad and you’re giving a chance for lbw and [a] catch close in. Once you get the stride right and the body weight is transferring forward, you will automatically play with soft hands. Even if you’re beaten by the bounce at the last moment, you can adjust. Your bat and hand position should be such that, at the last moment, you can drop your wrists or take your bat up and leave the ball. Once you take a long stride, you’re locked.”
“Once you’re comfortable with your defence, you play to save one edge, not both. On a turning track you always play for the ball that comes in. Your bat should be vertical and you look to play back to the bowler. More often than not you won’t get bowled because you’re covering the line of the delivery.”
In the third Test, only 2 wickets fell to pacers as Ishant Sharma and Jofra Archer picked the first wickets in both the first innings, while 28 more were split between spinners. And one of the most interesting aspects was how many of the spinners’ dismissals were off deliveries that did not spin. Laxman explains that it is important to not allow the bowler to settle in.
“It’s important not to allow the bowler to pitch the ball on the same length repeatedly. There are various ways to do that. Because I never swept, there were two options: step down the wicket, or go right back and play late. Go back early and play late, after allowing the ball to finish doing whatever it is. That’s how I disrupted length. The bowler will think he is bowling too full or too short, adjust his length, and in the bargain I would get overpitched deliveries to drive or short balls to pull.”
“Most importantly, on tough tracks, turners or seamers, you have to get ugly runs,” said Laxman.
“As a batsman, you will not have rhythm or flow. Even if you’re batting on 50 you will feel that you’re not in and you may not middle the ball. This is the challenge for England. It will take a lot of mental toughness to score runs. At the highest level, you’re talented, experienced, you’re a good batsman, and you feel that you should always dominate. When you dominate you will look good and you will look comfortable. On these pitches you will not look good. If you’re expecting to dominate, it will not happen and play into the hands of the bowler.”
India and England will be back at the same ground for the final Test beginning 4 March. For India, who lead the four-match series 2-1, this is a chance to seal the World Test Championship Final berth by avoiding defeat, which would then open up the door for Australia.
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