In foresight, the battle is a complete mismatch. Australia were the premier side in all formats of the game till a few years back and are still more than a formidable force with 377 wins in 801 Test matches spread across more than a 100 years. Bangladesh are relative newbies and do not even have victory count in double figures in Test cricket. They have played a 100 Tests with 9 victories and a win percentage of 9 as opposed to Australia’s 47.06.
It really is a mismatch
But pitches in this part of the country is a leveller that bridges the large gap between these two cricketing nations. Australians have never quite been able to conquer the sub-continent although they still hold a 100% win record over Bangladesh in Test match cricket.
That said, it would be a gross mistake if they were to underestimate this Bangladesh side. Though still on the path to establishing themselves as one of the premier Test sides, the Tigers have done enough in the past few years to suggest that a change is on the horizon.
In fact, they brushed aside Sri Lanka in their 100th Test match and levelled a series against England prior to that. The role of their spinners in these victories means that Australia have quite a few headaches going into this relatively ‘easy’ series.
One thing the Aussies did better in the sub-continent when they toured India last year was their ability to occupy the crease for longer periods of time and use their feet against the spinners. But Ashwin, Jadeja and Kuldeep eventually proved to be too tough a hurdle for the Aussie batsmen to overcome.
But they did take quite a lot of positives from the 2-1 series loss and head to Bangladesh knowing that they competed well against a juggernaut of an Indian side.
Bangladesh do pose quite a different challenge with their spinners, Mehendi Hasan Miraz, Shakib-al-Hasan, Taijul Islam and probably Sunzamul Islam a bit of an unknown to the Aussie batsmen. Here we dissect the spinners and methods Aussies could adopt to tackle the Bangladesh spinners.
Moving back and forth
If Australia were following the India-Sri Lanka Tests, they would have picked up quite a few tricks from the likes of Dhawan, Rahane, Rahul and Pujara. The Indians showed their experience in handling spin by moving forward and back effortlessly to tackle the Sri Lankan spinners who had wrecked havoc against the Aussies a year back.
Australia need to adopt a similar approach in the sub-continent. The key to disrupting the rhythm of any spinner is to get to the pitch of the ball and eliminate turn. England did it poorly against Mehedi Hasan and paid their price. Australia need to correct that. Get to the pitch of the ball, sow seeds of doubt in the minds of the spinner and rock back and cut. Although simple in writing it is rather difficult to execute on the pitch.
Know when to sweep
When teams outside the subcontinent tour this part of the World, a lot of stress is placed on the sweep shot. Believed to be an extremely good way to negotiate spin, teams practise the shot day in day out in training and come out for the real Test only to realise it isn’t as easy out in the middle.
A better approach the Aussies could take is, sweep only when it is necessary. These Bangladesh spinners, Mehedi and Shakib in particular, are relentless with their stump to stump line and sweeping against the turn or even with it can be a dangerous ploy with the batsmen opening themselves up to the LBW.
Instead, they could use their feet, play with the turn and use the sweep and the reverse sweep as a surprise weapon. Maxwell did it with immense success in his own unorthodox manner in India and his teammates could take a cue from that.
The Renshaw way
There is the ‘see ball, hit ball’ Maxwell way and the ‘don’t hurt the ball’ Renshaw way. The newbie Australian opener has been a revelation since his debut with his old school batting methods. He faced as many as 606 balls in the Indian series, racking up just 232 runs with 2 half-centuries.
But what he did was successfully frustrate the Indian spinners to a point where they started experimenting even against the non-striker’s. The Renshaw method could reap rich rewards against the Bangladeshis. Defend, defend, defend from one end while milk runs from the other end is another way to counter the spinners.
Negotiating the Mehedi threat
When England toured Bangladesh in 2016, Mehedi Hasan was in his debut Test series. But that did not deter him from taking 19 wickets in 2 Tests at an average of 15.63. He ended the series with three five-wicket hauls and a ten-wicket haul.
More than sheer numbers, the pressure he exerted with his immaculate lines, turn, drift and flight forced mistakes off the other end. Negotiating Mehedi Hasan will be at the top of Australia’s priority list.
The off-spinner relies on an unwavering line of attack and putting him under pressure will be one to go. He is relentless and going after him might not really work. That said, he could be milked for runs but Australia need to ensure that they do not go too much on the back foot while playing Hasan. He has a skiddy arm ball that could pose quite a lot of problems when on the back foot.