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Lack of quality spinner costs Australia

Aakash Chopra | 10:43 UK time, Tuesday, 14 October 2008

India-Australia matches are becoming increasingly tight contests - and the first Test in Bangalore wasn't any different.

Winning the toss in the sub-continent has always been very important but on tracks like the one at the M._Chinnaswamy_Stadium, it's almost a must.

Australia did the expected by choosing to bat first and piled on the runs. One could argue that with the scoring rate, which hovered around three runs an over instead of the four we're so used to seeing when Ricky Ponting's side are batting, that they weren't really finding it easy going.

But if one looks closely, there were two reasons for that:

1. The track didn't offer substantial bounce and even the pace kept decreasing with every passing hour. A slow-and-low wicket is never conducive to exciting strokeplay and it showed here.

2. The most aggressive Australian batsman (Matthew Hayden) didn't fire and the absence of a Gilchrist-type player lower down the order showed up when they could've forced the issue.

Australia, though, managed not only to post a huge first innings total but also negated the Indian spin bowlers very efficiently. Ricky Ponting managed to fight the ghosts from his past (of not doing well in India) and Michael Hussey, yet again, proved his worth.


The more I see of Hussey, the more I appreciate him. His footwork is very decisive and he always plays with a lot of intent. The good thing is that even after crossing the three-figure mark, he doesn't drop his guard. It just shows his hunger to score as many runs as possible and make up for lost time (he made his Test debut at 29).

Nine wickets were shared between the quicker bowlers, Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma, and that might be of a little concern in the Indian dressing room. Not that there's anything wrong with fast bowlers taking most of the wickets, but to win a Test match at home, the Indian spin department must fire and do most of the damage, which it didn't in this match.

The Indian batting never got going and at one point looked like conceding a big first innings lead or even failing to save the follow-on. That's when Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer got together and pulled India out of the woods. This Indian team has always shown a lot of grit and fighting spirit and this was on display once again.

When Australia were struggling to dislodge the tail, they must've missed Shane Warne. Both Cameron White and Michael Clarke are nowhere near the quality of spin one would want to see at this level.

Australia did eventually manage to get a slender first innings lead but the moment had passed and Australia had lost their stronghold on the match. The time consumed and the runs scored by the lower Indian batsmen were vital in the context of the game.

In a Test match, time is of the essence in forcing a result and by batting a tad slower than their normal scoring rate and then taking a lot of overs to dismiss the opposition, it left Australia with very little time to score enough runs, put India in again, and then bowl them out in the last innings. Australia are surely missing Warne, McGrath and Gilchrist.

India did manage to hold on to their own in the last innings - but only just. The track was definitely not the best to bat on and it didn't suit the strokeplayers at all. And most Indians are precisely that and their inability to adapt to a different role, the role of a grinder, showed up.


Australia won more sessions than India and walked away with more positives. The key to start the tour strongly is to do well in conditions favouring the home side. Australia did it effectively (negated the spin, used reverse swing to counter the lack of bounce and played a lot off the front foot because of the lack of bounce and pace) and that has put the pressure back on the Indians to come up with new ideas for the remaining games.

But while India have a few things to ponder in the days prior to the second Test in Mohail, Australia have only one major worry - the lack of a quality spinner. But they can't do anything about that anymore.

Aakash Chopra opened the batting for India in 10 Tests, forming an all-Delhi combination with Virender Sehwag during India's tour of Australia in 2003-04. He also made his mark as an exceptional bat-pad fielder. He writes columns for the Hindustan Times and Cricinfo. He recently wrote Beyond the Blues, his season diary for Delhi's 2007-08 championship season.


  • Comment number 1.

    Summed up pretty well Aakash.

  • Comment number 2.

    I don't think Australia's lack of a quality spinner can be demostrated more clearly than when Michael Clarke was handed the ball *before* Cameron White in India's second innings. India, on the other hand, look a bowler short - particularly if they lose the toss and have to bowl on pitches lacking assistance for their spinners. Do they have options for a third seamer (perhaps an all rounder)? Or are they going to have to take the luck of the draw and be left struggling unless they win the toss?

  • Comment number 3.

    a quality spinner as in a Shane Warne or a Stuart MacGill who could come on and make things happen

    They are struggling to fill a void left by those two

    As the pitches in India are not really suited to the pace of Lee

    Their batting is not as strong as it use to be with Langer, Gilchrist retired and Symonds dropped for discilplinary reasons so there is a chance for India to get at them once they remove Ponting and Hussey

  • Comment number 4.

    The article does not tell us anything we don't already know...legends like Warne do not come along every day!!

  • Comment number 5.

    I do not totally agree with the fact that the Aussies won more sessions! Other than the opening session on Day 3 and the one on Day 5 every other session was pretty much even-stevens. As far as the run rate was concerned, a surprising fact about this blog is not a word of praise for the Indian bowlers. They were pretty much awesome. I wonder what the comments from the media would have been had the Indian seamers too struggled? Would you guys put it as a superb batting performance by the aussies on a batsman's paradise? I think one should give credit when it is due. More than Warne or Gilchrist the one guy whom they totally missed was Andrew Symonds. They missed his batting, his off spin and his fielding. They missed his intimidating presence.

    All in all an incomplete article and a point of view that I do not agree with!

  • Comment number 6.

    a well written article, but seems really to be stating the blatantly obvious. the aussies will be disappointed not to come away with the win, having dominated the first two days. they showed a definite lack of ruthlessness when bowling at zaheer and harbhajan

  • Comment number 7.

    The Aussie part time spinners took as many wickets as their specialist Indian counterparts in the Test despite bowling a fraction of the overs. If the Aussie spin attack is poor (which it is) what does this tell you about the Indian spin attack. Kumble averages around 60 a wicket in 2008 - hardly front line statistics.

  • Comment number 8.

    If there is any place where Spinners are key to winning matches its India and since Warne and MacGill retired there has been no one able to cement that spot in the team

  • Comment number 9.

    Test match pitches need pace and bounce, then everyone has a chance to get into the games. This is relative though and slow low pitches are expected in India. Spinners prosper with just a little extra pace and/or bounce though so lets hope for a more responsive surface in Mohali. The cricket would then become more entertaining too, as the extra pace should help some stroke play.

  • Comment number 10.

    I haven't understood the pre-series hoopla that India are favorites to overrun the Aussies. There is no tell tale sign that India are better in any department. They have barely managed to avoid defeat because very unlikely tail wagging in the first innings. Harbhajan and ZAK should be thanked for batting India out of dire straits.World's most vaunted batting line up had little to show. The fab four may have barely kept the selectorial axe from falling on their very shaky heads. Kumble perhaps was the biggest liability in more than one sense. This team now has quite a few incompetent fielders to hide, a woeful performance in the filding department. Barring the captain Indian bowling did pass the muster. He still has the temerity to suggest that given a favorable toss India would have won. On the contrary Indian team may have made a bee line to the pavilion had they been inserted in the first innings when the wicket was doing things. I hope they lose the toss in Mohali lest they are exposed to a tough decision.
    Ganguly's time wasting gimmicks were pathetic. There are ways of not losing a test, this should not be one of them. Australia could well have declared on their overnight score tempting India to go one down in running after the mirage of a victory. If there is one factor that kept Ponting from doing this it is the presence of Sehwag in the Indian team. He is the only batsman capable of playing fearlessly. To that extent the Aussies are guilty of being defensive as Zak rightly alleged. On a scale of ten here are my player ratings based on performance in this first test. Along with Kumble the tv coverage was woeful. Too many ads are shown at critically wrong junctures. Scorecard which has most information is never displayed for more than five fleeting seconds in order to ensure no one reads or learns anything. Ad content lacks imagination. Tv viewing becomes an almighty pain. Cricket has become an adjunct to brutal and tasteless advertising.

    Gambhir 6
    Sehwag 6
    Dravid 5
    Tendulkar 5
    VVS 5
    Ganguly 5
    Dhoni 6
    Kumble 2
    ZAK 9
    Harbhajan 9
    Ishant 9

    Selectors 5
    Rauf 8
    Kuertzen 5
    TV coverage 2

  • Comment number 11.

    A quality spinner for Australia is not going to do much difference in India. As everybody knows even the great Shane Warne has struggled in India.

  • Comment number 12.

    Nice blog Aakash.

    There were many positives for both sides from this well contested Chinnaswamy Stadium Test Match in Bangalore.

    Aussies had a good overall performance. When batting Zaheer, Bhajji, Kumble and Ishant made useful contributions for Team India. It was heartening to watch the Indian tail showing incredible competence when dealing with the Aussie bowling.

    Indian regular batters made modest contributions either in the first or the second essay. Saurav Ganguly stayed over four hours at the crease scoring 47 and 26 not out thereby sending clear signals of greater things to come in the remaining Test Matches.

    The visitors looked overcautious and ultra defensive and failed to make good use of the advantage they gained from winning the toss. Had they to declare half an hour before stumps on the penultimate day, they could have put lot more pressure on the home side.

    Ten overs on Day Four and a full day's play on Day Five could have sent the visitors one up. They are a good batting, bowling and a fielding side but their hunger for safety-first-methods were indeed baffling.

    Let us wish the two sides all the very best in the Mohali Test.

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho


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