Mike Hussey believes that there is an indecisiveness about Steve Smith when he is facing Ravichandran Ashwin and feels that the right-hander is being bothered by the offie having the wood over him. Hussey also expressed concern over the Australian batsmen’s technique against spin.
After being dismissed for just 1 run in the first innings in Adelaide, Steve Smith entered Day 1 of the Boxing Day Test keen to post a big score, but all he could manage was a duck next to his name, with Ravichandran Ashwin getting the better of him for the second Test running. After being caught at conventional slip in the first Test, Smith, on Saturday, was caught at leg-slip, trying to uppishly flick a ball on leg-stump, falling right into the off-spinner’s trap.
It was an uncharacteristic dismissal for Smith, particularly versus a bowler who he’d dominated all his career prior to the series, and so people have been left to wonder what’s gone wrong with the Number one Test batsman. Reviewing Day 1 of the second Test on ESPN Cricinfo, former Australian cricketer Mike Hussey noted that there was indecision in Smith’s mind when he faced Ashwin on Saturday.
“He [Ashwin] has got some wood over Steve Smith and that was annoying him. It was a strange shot from him… he seemed to have poked at it. It was almost as if he was giving catching practice. He wasn’t the decisive Steve Smith that we are used to seeing against spin. There’s obviously something unsure about him when he’s facing Ashwin,” Hussey said in a video posted on ESPN Cricinfo.
Ashwin, who is on his fourth tour of Australia, has come a long way this tour, having gone from being a doubtful starter to arguably now the first name on the teamsheet. The ongoing tour - where he’s picked 8 wickets at 13.25 - is already his most fruitful outing on Aussie soil, and many believe the 34-year-old is bowling the best he ever has, away from home. Hussey claimed that he was impressed with Ashwin’s tendency to ‘learn and improve’.
“What I’ve admitted about Ashwin is that he’s improved every single time he’s come to Australia. In the first two tours, he didn’t perform very well at all,” Hussey said of the Tamil Nadu man.
“But he’s a very good thinking cricketer and he’s learnt his lesson every single time he’s come to Australia and just got better and better. He’s evolved his game and he’s been very effective in the last couple of times in Australia. I’ve loved watching his variations, he makes the batsmen keep guessing all the time.”
Australia’s struggles against Ashwin this series are just a microcosm of their troubles against spin, having historically been at the mercy of slow bowling whenever there has been assistance. Hussey questioned the Australian batsmen’s technique against the spinners and felt that they are pushing at the ball too hard, in turn bringing the close fielders into play.
“Australia’s technique against the spin – a lot of them are pushing hard at the ball and that brings those close in fielders on the leg side if there’s any turn. He got bounce and that was due to him coming on early. The ball was still hard and that’s what worries the Australian batsmen. There’s plenty of natural variations as well. It was a quality performance once again,” the 45-year-old said.