‘Technique is a servant, not the master’. It is often said one just needs to develop a technique that works for him. Having said so, a weakness in one’s technique is also bound to get exposed and exploited. A batsman may develop an unusual or unorthodox, as one may say, to score runs. But at this level, a chink in one’s technique does get exposed at a certain point of time.
It was quite clear that this Australian line-up had few batting woes to be addressed prior to the start of the series. While the likes of Shaun Marsh, Bancroft and Tim Paine have done reasonably well to fill the gap to an extent, the inconsistency of their reliable batsman Peter Handscomb has started created trouble.
Although Australia have a healthy 1-0 lead in the series, but the ongoing game is evenly poised between both the sides. With Joe Root battling it out in the middle, it can still be anybody’s game on the final day at Adelaide. If Australia lose this game, one can expect few changes coming in the current line-up. Although they would be reluctant to disturb their winning combination, but a defeat would certainly compel them to do so.
In four innings so far, Australia’s batting has failed to click on a couple of occasions. Their failure didn’t affect massively as Steve Smith and Marsh stepped up under the pump and sailed the ship out of choppy waters in first innings of Gabba and Adelaide respectively, but others have to pull up.
Handscomb was pitch perfect in the last season, but his parched runs column in three innings so far has raised questions. One wouldn’t be wrong in saying that Handscomb is certainly fighting for survival in the remainder of the series and is under scrutiny.
The squad for the third Test is expected to be announced once the ongoing Adelaide game concludes a result. With the pitch at WACA having a reputation of being flat, one can expect Australia to reduce the workload of their strike bowlers and include an all-rounder. If so, then Glenn Maxwell and Mitchell Marsh are the frontrunners for their staggering form in Shield Cricket.
Also, Maxwell’s brilliant form in Shield cricket, where he also scored a double ton, is only strengthening his case for a middle-order slot. The race is getting tougher and the one running in have to pull up. Handscomb has garnered scores of 14, 36 and 12 in three innings so far. His early kill in the second innings of the Adelaide Test has affected Australia the most as the side was in desperate need of a partnership.
After commencing his international journey with a bang, Handscomb gave an impression of being a solid middle-order batsman for long. But his recent form has rather been ordinary. He only managed 157 runs in six innings in Shield Cricket, which didn’t affect his selection for the Ashes squad and was given a go in the middle-order.
Handscomb averaged 53.07 before the start of Ashes and was surely one of the best batsmen in the country. But his run in the Test cricket has not been up to the mark. In last nine Test innings, Handscomb has breached the 50-run mark on a solitary occasion and scored 234 runs at 29.25.
Handscomb banks on an unorthodox technique that has helped him reap fruitful results over the years. But the nature of the game is such that as long as the runs are coming, there isn’t an issue, but when it doesn’t that’s the time questions really arise on one’s technique. It also looks like Handscomb has lost some faith in his technique. Although it’s a bit early to comment, but the signs do exist.
In the second innings at Adelaide, his mystery was solved by Anderson with a barrage of full swinging deliveries. He looked bereft of oomph and English seamers have done well to exploit it.
Australian cricket legend Ricky Ponting thinks Handscomb has some issue going on with his technique. He told cricket.com.au, “It’s very unusual. I’ve never seen it before. You see a lot of people finish in that position after they’ve pushed back from their front foot onto their back foot and finish six inches from their stumps, but I’ve never seen anyone start there. That, in itself, could mean there’s some sort of issue going on. I’m not sure what it might be but batting back there he’s trying to give himself as much time as he possibly can.”
“If he’s always done it and that’s the technique he wants to stick with that’s fine, but when you see him start moving his feet like he did today; one ball two feet outside off stump, the next ball outside leg stump, that’s going to make batting pretty difficult. There’s going to be a few things there that need to be changed as far as I’m concerned. If he keeps moving around like he does and moving back in front of his stumps it just looks like he’s making batting more difficult for himself,” Ponting added.
Kevin Pietersen also made a solid point and told Channel Nine telecast, “In Test match cricket you have to fiercely compete against the bowler. You have to make the bowler think you have everything right, even if you don’t. You have to get that personality across, to me Handscomb hasn’t had that personality across. It’ll emphasise with Broad and Anderson targeting him they knew he wasn’t happy with that technique. You can’t have that in Australia batting at No.5.”
Handscomb deserves a longer chance and if given so, he desperately needs to belt a big score under his belt. Every cricketer does go through a rough patch, where the runs are hard to come by. Whether this is just a rough patch or a serious technical flaw for Handscomb? Still remains an open debate, after all, he has done well for so long riding on the same technique. But a couple of big scores should calm the storm down in his mind.