Australia have learned to play spin well
The common conception among many in Bangladesh is, the Australians cannot play well against spin bowling and thus, the best way to beat them on subcontinent is by preparing rank-turners. Even last year in Sri Lanka, Rangana and Herath and Sandakan proved this conception right by thrashing the World Champions. But the Australians are such a patient and keen learner that the theory of nailing them by preparing turning tracks against them doesn’t work better like the past.
The Indians prepared a rank-turner in the first Test in Pune. To the astonishment of all, Australia took a lead in the series and the Indian spinners were unable to scythe through the visitors that had done their homework, then, were skittled themselves by Steve O’Keefe. The Aussies batters were found astute in technique and temperament while their spinners used the crease to create angles which sow the seeds of doubt in the minds of Indian batters.
Australian cricketers have insisted after each failure in Asia they have learned their lesson. The Aussies batsmen such as Matt Renshaw, Peter Handscomb and co trusted their defence, curbed the aggressive intent and used their feet more against Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. They tackled the spinners with authority during the major part of the series but proved shaky against pace and late movement.
Pace and movement a problem for Australia
Even though Yasir Shah triggered nightmares in the Australian batting line-up in the Middle East three years ago, the chief architecture of putting chills down the spine was two Pakistani pacers – Imran Khan Jnr and Rahat Ali – who bowled their heart out on dead wickets to test skill and mental toughness of Australian top order. Imran Khan Jnr not only tested with pace, but his late swing puts the Aussie batters on the backfoot and created a platform for Yasir and Zulfiqar Babar to cut the Australian batting lineup in halves.
A year later, James Anderson, Mark Wood and Stuart Broad sunk the Australian ship with pace and movement while last year, the visiting South Africans humiliated Steve Smith’s men with the same – Kagiso Rabada, Vernon Philander and Kyle Abbott blew away the Australian batting lineup at Perth and Hobart. Rabada and Philander unleashed reverse swing while Abbott moved the new ball like hell.
A few months later, in the decisive third Test against India at Dharmsala, on day 3, Umesh Yadav transformed into a demon to devour the cream of Australian batting lineup in one of the most inspiring spells by a pace bowler on Indian soil. In fact, Yadav had been the vital cog behind maintaining a constant pressure from one end. The secret behind his success on rank-turners had been the ability to clock around 85-90 mph constantly, bowling full with an accurate line and extract late movement with the old ball.
The instances above indicate, more than the spin wizards, it had been the genuine quick bowlers who created more problems for the Australian batters in the recent past.
Bangladesh need to invest faith in Taskin Ahmed and Mustafizur Rahman
Even though, Shakib Al Hasan and Mehedi Hasan Miraz gunned down England at home last year, the same strategy of depending too much on the spinners might not work against Australia. But it would be better if the think tank of Bangladesh invest more faith in their pace attack. Yes, Bangladesh don’t have a genuine quick bowler under their disposal, but they are not without quality.
Mustafizur Rahman aka Fizz showed in Colombo in the post lunch session on day 4, how dangerous he could be on a flat deck by bowling full and moving the ball late. Sri Lanka went for lunch at 137 for 1. When they came back to bat, Mustafiz decided to bowl round the wicket and angle the ball away from the batters by generating reverse swing. The Sri Lankan batters were dumbfounded and Bangladesh clawed back into the game courtesy of Fizz’s brilliant spell. Fizz proved his worth as a five-day bowler against the Proteas as well in Chittagong two years ago where Hashim Amla realised how big a threat Fizz can be if he starts to pitch it full and in the right areas.
Bangladesh included Shafiul Islam, but in my opinion, he’s more of a new ball bowler and if the shine fades away, Shafiul is an ordinary customer in five-day matches. To unleash the aggressive intent, Taskin Ahmed would be a perfect choice.
In five-day matches, Taskin has been scattershot, but still, he remains the obvious choice only because of the talent he has and ability to hit the clock around 90 mph. In the five-day matches against India and New Zealand, Taskin’s length had been a big issue, but according to various reports, the charming boy is improving under the guidance of Chandika Hathurusingha and Courtney Walsh. He is hungry for wickets and eager to prove a point in the best format of the game.
Taskin has pace and this is an asset. Those pace bowlers who can bowl fast and blessed with talents should never be ignored in the name of disciplined line-and-length. They can script a cheeky little aggressive spell any moment to change the course of the game. Bangladesh must keep faith in Taskin.
Let the pace bowlers lead the bowling attack
For more than a decade, Bangladesh’s main bowling options in international cricket have been the spinners. But since the appointment of Chandika and Heath Streak, the scenario has changed. Bangladesh love to attack with fast bowlers, but still, this mindset is limited to 50-over formats. In Test matches, the spinners still rule the roost. The time has come to let the pacers lead from the front against Australia, as because, firstly, Australia’s vulnerability against pacers is needed to be exploited and secondly, Australia have learned to tackle the spinners very well.
Depending too much on the spinners might no pay rich dividends.