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IND vs AUS A | Day 3 Talking Points: Travis Head’s tactical nous and Gill-Shaw’s recklessness

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India escaped defeat in their first warm-up game

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IND vs AUS A | Day 3 Talking Points: Travis Head’s tactical nous and Gill-Shaw’s recklessness

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Anirudh Suresh

12/08/2020

A day that had ‘boring’ written all over it turned out to be enthralling thanks to the impatience of the Indian batsmen, but the visitors’ bowlers came to the fore, just in time, to save the day. India will be thankful for the practice they garnered, but also relieved that they escaped a loss.

The Indian bowlers were passive versus the tail - again

If I got a dollar for every yorker the Indian seamers attempted on the morning of Day 3, I’d be $1 richer. Resuming Day 3 on 286/6, the Aussies were able to add 20 runs to their overnight score before the Indians picked the final wicket (Jackson Bird did not come out to bat). Now from a fielding side’s perspective, that’s not too bad - you’d take it at least 8/10 times, if not 9.

What was concerning, however, was the Indian bowlers’ passive tactics against the tail: the seamers attempted a solitary yorker in 10 overs and Ravi Ashwin was more than happy to just ‘get through his overs quickly’ with no intent to bait the batsmen into big hits. Only in the 10th over of the morning did they come up with any plan of sorts - Siraj bowled bumpers from around the wicket - and, unsurprisingly, a wicket ensued almost instantaneously. 

India’s inability to clean up the tail has been well documented - tail-enders (No.8 to No.11) in SENA countries have averaged 22.27 against them since 2018 - and though their pace attack in this game was essentially second string, that they went through the motions was worrying. If what unfolded today is a sign of things to come, then you’d imagine Cummins, Starc, Lyon, and Hazlewood would be licking their lips - not just at the prospect of bowling to Prithvi Shaw and Shubman Gill.

Congrats, KL - Gill and Shaw have helped you win your Test spot back

You are an opening batsman who has a potential opportunity to seal a place in the main Test XI by scoring big runs. Right before you is a flat batting wicket and a tired bowling attack that is one bowler short and does not have a specialist spinner. There are just over 20 minutes to go for lunch. What do you do:  a) bat responsibly and see off the session or b) throw your bat at everything in the search of quick runs? Shaw and Gill chose the latter and that is precisely why KL Rahul will - and should - open the batting in the first Test come Adelaide. 

Apart from being inexplicable and unjustifiable, Shaw and Gill’s innings on Day 3 was also disconcerting. It is truly absurd that Cameron Green, on 120* with a number 10, batted with more responsibility and took fewer uncalled-for risks than two openers auditioning for a spot in the side. Gill and Shaw might have scored 48 runs between them in the morning, but, in reality, they played knocks worse than their first innings ducks - and that says something. 

On a relatively flat deck where all they needed to do was apply themselves for an hour, the duo, seemingly still in IPL mode, threw their hands at every goddamn delivery, hit balls recklessly in the air and eventually threw their wickets away. It is beyond belief how two batsmen vying for a spot in the side can bat the way Gill and Shaw did on the morning of Day 3.

I’d be fuming if I were Kohli, but that said, perhaps after today, the Indian skipper has one selection headache less to deal with.

Travis Head passes captaincy test

“Why is Travis Head captaining this side?” was the question unanimously raised by many the moment the youngster was listed as the official captain. For some, that Head was captaining Australia A in spite of the presence of Tim Paine was bewildering, and for the rest, the decision was perplexing because of the southpaw’s dismal record as the skipper of South Australia. But across three days, Head’s shown that he can do a job and a half as skipper if you give him a good side.

The way Head marshaled the troops on Day 1 was laudable, but his captaincy today on Day 3 was a genuine standout. Jackson Bird’s injury ideally should have left Australia A handicapped, but skipper Head’s perfect rotation of the bowlers gave the impression that the Aussies, if anything, were in fact bowling with an extra seamer - using perfectly-timed short bursts, the Indian batsmen were put under relentless pressure. 

Head’s captaincy and tactical nous also extended beyond bowling changes. His aggressive field-sets, which encouraged the new-ball bowlers to keep attacking, accounted for the wickets of both the openers and many a time he managed to put doubts in the batsman’s mind -  like the instance when Pattinson double-bluffed Rahane after a fielder was placed at long leg - through smart field placements. 

There might, by the looks of it, after all, be a logic behind the Aussies allowing the ex vice-skipper to captain the side ahead of the incumbent Test skipper. 

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