When spin legend Shane Warne had come to India in December last year to be a part of the commentary team for the India-England series for the Mumbai Test, he then told the media that Australia took three visits before winning the series in 2004. Warne, who himself did not have much success against India, said playing spin is a different ball game in this part of the world. “There is side spin, over spin and there is slowness in the wicket. It took three series even though we had great batsmen of spin like Ricky Ponting, Matthew Hayden, Waugh brothers (Mark and Steve) but it took us a while before beating India in India. We learnt by experience,” he said.
Former Aussie captain Steve Waugh had once said India was the final frontier to conquer. Warne stressed the teams need to show character to defeat India in India. Warne, who was part of the commentary team in Chennai for the first Test, even had a pep talk with the Australian team after the first Test defeat.
The ball is now in the Australian court. But this Australian side, which many say is one of the weakest to tour India, is an inexperienced one. It has only two players — skipper Michael Clarke and Shane Watson — who have toured and played Tests in India.
Most of the other players have come and played in India, but it was either in Twenty20 or one-day series, which is a different cup of tea. However, it is a totally different challenge when it comes to playing on a Test wicket. Test wickets in India are slow in nature. The ball keeps low and the batsmen need patience to win the battle against the spin. According to VVS Laxman, the batsmen have to play late against the spinners, particularly on turning tracks where the ball spins and bounces.
It is also important for the batsman to use the depth of the crease which Cook did against India in the last series. Kevin Pietersen, who played the match-changing knock at Mumbai, trusted his defence more in his battle against the spin of Ravichandran Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha. Pietersen, who used his feet well, also employed the sweep shots effectively against the spinners. That upset the rhythm of the spinners.
In the present team, Clarke is the only player to use his feet well against the spinners. The under-fire Watson is a good sweeper of the ball. The rest of the batsmen are too inexperienced to play against the guile of Ashwin, Jadeja and Harbhajan.
Australian coach Micky Arthur is aware of the huge difference and the importance of adaptability of playing Test matches in India.
“The ball obviously assists the spinners here. It turns and keeps low,” said Arthur and made the batsmen and bowlers train on a fifth day’s wicket at Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium on Wednesday. The Aussie spinners meanwhile, according to Arthur, have been trying to interact with former Indian spinners like Shivlal Yadav, SL Venkatapathy Raju and others. “They just get a lot of advice which is great. We encourage them to speak to as many players as possible,” he added. The present Aussies team will surely learn by experience.