Australia have an enviable record against Bangladesh, winning all the four Tests played till date. The teams are meeting after a gap of 11 years and this Bangladeshi side, for the first time, pose a genuine threat to Australia. Bangladesh have undergone a drastic change and inspire immense confidence as a unit. Also, none of the Australian players have the experience of playing a Test in Bangladesh, which further spices up the challenge. Despite Australia starting as marginal favourites, Bangladesh stand an equal chance in the two-match series.
Batting is one of the most challenging tasks in the sub-continent. With spin playing a massive role, scoring runs becomes extremely difficult. Although, that’s not to suggest that it needs rocket science to unravel the mysteries of the turning ball. Seamers may occasionally pose a threat, but it stands to be negated if the spinners are thwarted. Counter-attacking spin demands precision and temperament. A sound technique is what needed to build a substantial innings. One just needs to find a way that works for one to get the scoreboard ticking. There’s no need to mimic someone else.
If batting is an art then the technique is the paintbrush. In order to score runs, one needs to spend hours at the crease, get one’s eye in and most importantly, survive. A solid defence is a cornerstone for a success in spin-friendly conditions.
With the threat of spin mounting over both the teams, let’s take a look at how important will playing on the back foot be in the series. And to play spin effectively. Staying low, quick reflexes, using the feet to unsettle the bowler and ability to play on the front as well as on the back foot well is the general recipe.
Playing on the back foot is one of the most effective ways to counter-attack spin. But exactly does going to the back foot does against the spinners? Going on the back foot making utmost use of the depth of the crease, further, provides enough time to adjust to the turn and select a shot. Of course, this also needs picking the length early and playing the ball to its merit. This technique assists the batsmen when the leather starts gripping and turning.
In fact, if we look around, the most productive batsmen against spin in Test cricket boast of a solid back foot play. Players like Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Virat Kohli, Joe Root, Younis Khan, Jacques Kallis, Ricky Ponting, Rahul Dravid and Steve Smith have been outstanding on the back foot. Amla has used the back foot technique to good effect against England’s Graeme Swann and Harbhajan Singh.
Both the games are scheduled to be played at Chittagong and Dhaka. These pitches have a reputation of being either slow or flat. And one shouldn’t be surprised to see the wickets offering turn. This is where playing on the back foot will make the difference for both the sides.
However, given Mehedi Hasan’s speed, the zip that a young off-spinner like him generates from the wicket and considering that he has an arm ball that is hard to pick, it might be a double-edged sword. Back and across movement brings outside edge into play a lot more if the length is misjudged. But again, on slower wickets, it may not be a bad idea, especially if one is not comfortable stepping out of the crease. It may be better than lunging forward aimlessly. Shakib Al Hasan will pose the challenge of a different kind and will be effective on these surfaces. He varies his pace to good effect and carries massive experience in his shoulders.
When Bangladesh locked horns with England last year, their spinners accounted for 38 wickets in two games while seamers just had a solitary wicket to their name. And this series won’t be any different. Australia, on the other hand, do have Nathan Lyon, who has been roaring to newer heights. Lyon is a wily bowler and reads the conditions well. He flights the ball and looks to turn it, which will further test Bangladeshi batsmen on turning surfaces. Bangladesh does have batsmen, who have a solid back foot technique and the battle against Lyon and Ashton Agar will be worth watching.
Both the sides have a lot at stake. Bangladesh can further their Test credentials with a win, while Australia will slip in the ICC Test rankings and lose confidence with Ashes just around the corner. One can expect some intense action, with Bangladesh being in such a good form, which has never happened in Bangladesh and Australia contests. The visitors have a terrible record in Test matches played in Asia since 2007, losing 15 games out of 22 with just two wins to their name. They haven’t won a series since 2011 in the sub-continent, where Bangladesh are still looking for their first win. This is a golden opportunity for both the sides to script history and end their respective losing streaks.
How crucial a role the back foot stroke-play will play? Well, time will reveal to posterity. As of now, all eyes are set at Chittagong as the first Test kicks off in few hours.