India vs Australia | Takeaways : Rohit Sharma’s lack of temperament and Australian bowlers’ discipline

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India vs Australia | Takeaways : Rohit Sharma’s lack of temperament and Australian bowlers’ discipline

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Bastab K Parida

12/06/2018

This was a day that would be remembered for Cheteshwar Pujara’s stoic innings as much as for the other Indian batsman's lack of application. India ended the day with a score of 250/9, with a lot of a job left for the bowlers to do given the wicket has stopped showing any movement later in the day.

Australia’s discipline and Indians’ shot-selection headline Aussie dominance

The thing about warm-up match now a days is that it doesn’t give you a clear indication about how the things are going to pan out in the actual match. However, it gives players the confidence to do well when the challenges come along and Indian batsmen had them in plenty from their practice game against CA XI. KL Rahul scored a cool 62 in the second innings, but such has been his fragility that even Sanjay Bangar came forward to state, “He is finding new ways to get out”. The only concern that today, “He” became “They” and “is” turned to be “are” even before many Indians turning on their TV sets to check the score early morning.

Despite Josh Hazlewood getting some early movement, Rahul went for a flashy drive to give a catch to Aaron Finch at third slip. From the very look of it, it was one terrible shot, reaching well away from his body and in most probability, his past record might have had a role to play in it. He had been dismissed either by LBW or bowled in his last eight innings, and to negate that he might have been playing at the outside off-stump balls more often so as to get his bat down in time. But, that can’t act as an excuse.

On the other hand, Virat Kohli also can’t be fully blamed for his dismissal. It was Australian bowlers’ discipline that played a big role as much as the Indian skipper’s shot selection. While England and South Africa tried to bowl in the channel outside off to him, so as to extract an outside edge or an inside edge when he drags himself across, Australia decided to go for a completely different plan. Instead of trying to benefit from the movement off the pitch, Aussie bowlers decided to bowl on the channel and gave him no room which built pressure on him. Kohli was undecided whether to leave or play those balls and as a result of that, he got a bat to most of them. 

After Mitchell Starc and Hazlewood made him play as many as 15 balls, Pat Cummins gave one wide off stump delivery, and in a desperate bid to open the arms, the Indian captain got a thick edge. It was a pre-planned thing as Australia employed three slips and a point and a gully for Kohli with a fielder also placed in the cover region. The first hour of the first day gave a subtle sign that why Australia is still the place where without application, it is almost difficult to crack the code. 

Has India missed a trick by playing only one spinner?

Remember 2014 December when Virat Kohli’s party came to an abrupt end after Nathan Lyon got him caught by Mitchell Marsh to hand India a heartbreaking loss in Adelaide. If anything this Test was a demonstration of a spinner’s importance in Adelaide and it further backed up by the fact that Sydney Cricket Ground is also the only Australian ground to have seen more average turn than Adelaide Oval. It is a venue where Australia can manage with one spinner in the form of Nathan Lyon, but India certainly can’t and there is a good enough reason for that. Lyon mostly relies on overspin and dip thanks to his side-on action, but Ashwin bowls with a lot of variations on a flatter and faster trajectory, which is more helpful for turning Indian pitches. 

Also, going by previous records, Australia has always been a graveyard for finger-spinners, who can’t generate the bounce, and even the great Muttiah Muralitharan averaged 75.41 across five Tests in Australia. So, India could have punted with Kuldeep Yadav at Adelaide and give rest to Ravichandran Ashwin here.

Although there is no clear-cut way to state that Ashwin will fail here, the way Nathan Lyon bowled seemed like a blueprint for a wrist spinner actually. The Aussie was in absolute control against Pant and never dropped too short or pushed it too full, holding that line outside off. When the wicket started showing signs of turn, he used his angle to deflect from the position and that was sufficient for him to make Indians struggle, or rather lure to his doom. Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane thought that attack is the best option to tackle Lyon, but Rohit's brainless aggression resulted in Marcus Harris pouching a simple catch at square leg. 

It is exactly where Kuldeep’s importance comes in. He is expected to do that and could have been given a chance ahead of Ashwin or India could have played him in place of an extra batsman, just the way New Zealand did three years ago by playing Mark Craig and Mitchell Santner against their Trans-Tasman rivals. 

Rohit’s momentary madness and the lack of Test match temperament

The thing that brought so much success to Rohit in the 50-over format is the exact reason why he has continued to struggle in the longest version of the game. Bowlers are concerned about their line and lengths in ODIs and T20Is, where one mistake can bring a lot of problems to the fore, but in Test cricket, they certainly don’t care about that. The Glenn McGrath doctrine of “bowling at a length” until it forces the batsmen to commit mistake has been a consistent feature in the five-day format and no matter the innovation that comes along thanks to the 20-over cricket, it is still a prized possession. Patience is the virtue to survive Test cricket. If you want any further validation, don’t go further than Cheteshwar Pujara

However, what Rohit Sharma did today was just a reflection of his career - a stupendous limited-overs batsman, but terrible in red-ball cricket. His innings can be divided into two parts. After three early dismissals, including that of Virat Kohli, Rohit offered a very good response by taking a positive approach to his innings while Cheteshwar Pujara did switch on the damage control mode. However, Rohit was never in control of the innings even if he played a perfect hook off Cummins to showcase his mastery against the short balls.

After that, Tim Paine called in Nathan Lyon to replace him and it didn't take Rohit long to try and take on the spinner as well. Just after he managed to get a swipe over the leg side that Marcus Harris caught just inside the rope, it must have acted as a warning sign for him, rather he went for a flashy shot again. However, he wasn’t at all in the control of the things and was dismissed in a tame manner. Something that talks about the temperament. I am sorry, but Rohit doesn’t have it. 

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