“It’s very surprising to see the Australians didn’t learn from the mistakes made in Pallekele. They repeated the same mistakes in Galle and if they don’t rectify them, a 3-0 whitewash will be on the cards”
Last year, Cricket Australia (CA) created a sub-continental-style hybrid spin pitch at the National Cricket Centre in Brisbane. The aim was to conquer Australia’s continuous troubles against quality spin bowling on turning tracks. Situated at Ray Lindwall Oval adjacent to Allan Border Field, the wicket aims to replicate the spin-friendly conditions on the Indian sub-continent and elsewhere that have triggered nightmares among the touring teams over the years.
Such an initiative was supposed to reap a rich harvest for the number 1 Test team in the world, but one year later, it had been the same old story. Neither the hybrid spin pitch nor the recruitment of Muttiah Muralitharan could help Australia from digesting humiliation against spin bowling.
Australia set foot in Sri Lanka as the hot favorites and according to many, this Test series was expected to be a foregone conclusion. The young Sri Lankan side, who had a horrifying tour in England, was no match against this competent Australian unit, but after eight days of intriguing Test match cricket, it was Sri Lanka who were celebrating two back-to-back emphatic victories against the number 1 side in the world.
Sri Lanka’s Kusal Mendis and Australia’s spineless batting display made the difference between the two teams. Normally, one expects the tracks in Sri Lanka to be rank-turners, but neither the track in Pallekele nor in Galle were rank-turners, but it was one of those pitches where solid technique and temperament were needed to weather the storm. Instead of being resolute enough, the Australian batsmen played like school kids and thus, succumbed in a most disgraceful manner.
To tackle the spinners, it is very important to play with a straight bat. While driving with a high elbow on the front and back foot, a batsman has to decide whether he will play into the spin or with the spin. The golden rule is to play with the spin using the full face of the bat to achieve the confidence to carry on. After creaming a few boundaries by playing with the spin, a batsman can gain the required confidence and expand his thoughts on the next move.
With the ball turning in; drive, flick between midwicket and mid-off, drive between mid-off and extra cover, and with the ball turning away; drive between the cover and straight mid-on, drive through midwicket either on the front and back foot are safe strokes.
Of course, playing with soft hands, playing late as much as possible, and keeping the ball on the ground is very important
Most of the time, the Australian batsmen were seen going hard at the ball and trying to be adventurous as if they were playing the Big Bash League. The shot selection was not appropriate and the knack of keeping the ball on the ground was minimal. When a batsman tries to do things beyond his limitations, batting becomes rocket science and it only clutters the mind to invite big troubles.
Again, whenever, the Australian batsmen were seen at ease at the crease against the Sri Lankan spinners, it should be noted, they were watching the hand of the spinners closely and forward pressed. But such approaches were transient. It’s very important to keep an eye on the release-hand of the spinners to decide what to do and it also signals the mind to step forward towards the ball before the release. The target is to get onto the front toe as the ball is in flight to push forward or back depending on flight and length.
But sadly, except on a few occasions, neither the Australians watched the hand properly nor stepped forward. Moreover, they completely failed the read the spin in the air and off the pitch.
While batting, the head of the Australian batsmen was not still most of the time and their legs were so stiff as if their feet were paralyzed by the sight of Herath, Sandakan, and Perera. If a batsman doesn’t use his feet, batting becomes tougher.
It’s a pity that the modern-day batsmen are very reluctant to spend time at the crease and rotate the strike to keep the fielding team under pressure. The media and critics glorify improvisations and big strokes so much that these two important aspects of the batsmanship have taken a back seat. To fetch runs on tracks like Pallekele and Galle, spending time and strike-rotation are as valuable as gold. Above all, the right temperament is always the key to win tough battles. The Australians were poor technically and temperamentally.
It’s very surprising to see the Australians didn’t learn from the mistakes made in Pallekele. They repeated the same mistakes in Galle and if they don’t rectify them, a 3-0 whitewash will be on the cards.