Recently, the Australian batsmen were seen batting without their front-pads against spinners during a net session at Mirpur. Learning from their mistakes against Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin in their recent tour of India, this unique but potentially painful training method was put into place by the Australian think-tank to tackle the Bangladesh spin-brigade.
However, after their first innings performance, it seems, there is still work in progress.
Since the Decision Review System (DRS) have come into the frame of schemes, the number of Leg Before Wicket (LBW) decision has increased significantly. Especially on the slow-low subcontinental wickets, an umpire these days do not hesitate to raise his finger, if the ball hits the pad on the line of the stumps, even if the batsman is way down the crease.
On such tracks, spinners always target batsman’s front pad because of their tendency of putting the pad as the first line of defence. Especially, the non-subcontinental batsmen tend to possess this habit and the likes of Jadeja, Rangana Herath, Shakib Al Hasan, Mehedi Hasan Miraz – bowlers who can bowl those well-disguise darters, have benefited from this weakness, of the batters. A batsman trying to play for the turn but ending up missing the ball and getting out LBW, is one of the most common forms of dismissals these days.
Hence, to counter this strategy of oppositions, the Aussies have come out with this new ploy which can be immensely beneficially for the Australian batting unit, especially, the likes of Matthew Renshaw, Usman Khawaja and Mathew Wade — who have the tendency of planting their front-foot across while playing against spinners.
Meanwhile, this one-pad training method was first introduced in the Australian camp by their former batting coach Justin Langer five years ago. Recently in a media interaction at Mirpur, Glenn Maxwell spoke about it.
— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) August 24, 2017
“It’s probably something we did back in 2012 when ‘JL’ [Langer] was the batting coach. We did it a little in the nets when we were in Dubai [For Australia’s pre-India tour camp earlier this year]. I think the main thing is to basically use your bat: if you don’t have the safety of your front pad there it makes you get your leg out of the way and actually use your bat.
“It’s more about refining your defence and making sure you’re trusting the fact you’ll hit the ball and not hoping that your pad’s there just to save you,” added Maxwell. It’s more for the [spinners] that are hitting the stumps repeatedly and Bangladesh do that really well. They bowl the ball stump-to-stump and they put pressure on your defence.”
In fact, this particular ploy of practising without pad had helped Kevin Pietersen hugely and the former England captain has mentioned this in his auto-biography. It was Rahul Dravid, who first suggested Pietersen about this idea, when later sought his help to improve his technique while playing spin.
Ahead of England’s tour of Bangladesh in 2010, Dravid wrote an email to Pietersen, suggesting him to bat without any pad against the likes of Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar at the nets.
KP published the email in his autobiography.
“One good practice is to bat against Swann and Monty with pads or with just knee pads [maybe not a day before a game]. When you have no pads it will force you, sometimes painfully, to get the bat forward of the pads and will force you to watch the ball. Also, the leg will be less keen to push out without any protection. My coach(es) would tell me you shouldn’t need pads to play spin!!,” Dravid wrote.
In this era of DRS, such improvisations are the need of the hour for the modern-day batsmen of a team like Australia, which have come into the Mirpur Test, losing 11 out of their last 13 Test matches in Asia. They need such out of the box strategies to find a way to tackle quality spin bowling, which the secret of improving their record in this part of the world.
In fact, with Australia chasing a tricky target in the fourth innings, it will be a good opportunity to notice whether they can successfully implement the benefits the practice in their game or not.