The skipper of Australia acknowledges that the batting unit veered off their game plans and techniques by overemphasizing on the sweep shot, causing a crucial breakdown that ultimately gave India the Delhi Test.
(Photo credits: cricket.com.au)
Captain Pat Cummins attributed Australia’s collapse in the Delhi Test to an overcorrection from their previous performance in Nagpur, as the team’s reliance on sweep-shots gave India an advantage and turned their panic into joy.
Merely eight days after being grilled on how his team succumbed to their all-time lowest score in India, Cummins found himself yet again grappling for solutions as the Australian side suffered a nightmarish batting collapse of 8-28, resulting in their second consecutive Test defeat within three days.
On Sunday morning, Rohit Sharma, the opposing team captain, acknowledged the need to redirect his star spin bowlers’ attention. This was in response to the visitors’ rapid start the previous evening, where they scored at a rate of over five runs an over, ultimately reaching 1-61 by stumps.
“I could see that we were panicking a little bit,” said Rohit. “We were trying to change fields way too many times.
“But in the morning, we just wanted to tell those three guys that we just need to keep it calm … keep it tight, and let the batters make a mistake.”
Hours later after Rohit’s words to his charges, player-of-the-match Ravindra Jadeja was laughing at his opponents’ shot selection that had led to the extraordinary turnaround.
In the second innings, six Australian batsmen, including Steve Smith who was playing the shot for the first time in the series, were dismissed while attempting to execute the sweep or reverse-sweep. Smith was given out lbw.
When asked if the sweep was an effective strategy against his left-arm spin, Jadeja flashed a broad smile and revealed that he had achieved his career-best figures of 7-42.
Jadeja was asked if he thought the sweep was a viable option to counter his left-arm spin, to which he replied, “Not on this kind of wicket.” This opinion was further elaborated by Cheteshwar Pujara, who, in his 100th Test, stayed unbeaten on 31 and helped India secure the win.
“If you look at this pitch, it’s not an ideal shot to play because there’s low bounce,” said Pujara, who was presented with a signed Australian playing shirt in recognition of his milestone match after India’s six-wicket win.
“I might consider playing the sweep shot if the wicket offers enough bounce, but it’s still challenging… Playing with footwork, getting closer to the ball or staying on the back foot is better suited for turning tracks,” explained the player, who was discussing the challenges of playing on such surfaces.
“I’ve always done that throughout my career and it’s helped me a lot.”
Apart from Alex Carey, who has fallen prey to the reverse-sweep in three out of his four innings in the ongoing series, none of the Australian batters attempted a sweep shot in their second innings in Nagpur.
In Delhi, Usman Khawaja was the lone Australian batter who managed to execute the sweep shot successfully, scoring 30 runs out of his 81 runs in the first innings from 15 attempts at both reverse and conventional sweeps, which remained the highest individual score of the match.
Khawaja’s success with the sweep shot in Delhi was short-lived as he was eventually caught out in his second innings when a fielder placed closely behind square on the leg-side took a reflex catch off his paddle shot.
Cummins conceded that his team had deviated from their game plan in the second innings.
According to Cummins, “I thought they bowled really well, and it’s not easy out there, but some guys may have departed from their methods,” with Cummins himself falling prey to an attempted slog-sweep on day three from his very first delivery.
“There isn’t a universal formula for every batsman to follow. Each player has their unique approach to batting.”
“Regrettably, many of us perished playing across the line, a batting technique that might not be our individual preference,”
During what should have been the final session of play on Sunday, the sight of Matthew Hayden, a legendary sweep-shot player who was part of Australia’s last successful Test tour of India in 2004, conducting a segment for the host broadcaster while holding a broomstick and wearing a pink hat would have only highlighted the missteps of the Australian team.
“A few of the lessons we learned well from last week (served us) well in the first innings at times, (but) probably at times just overplayed that in the second,” continued Cummins.
Cummins acknowledged that his team underplayed the sweep shot in Nagpur and overplayed it in Delhi during the second innings.
At times, the Australian batters might have overplayed their hand in an attempt to counter the highly skilled Indian bowlers and apply pressure, as per Cummins. “In these conditions, you have to try and find a way to put pressure back on the bowlers,” he added. “They are exceptional in these conditions, but perhaps we overplayed it at times.”
“Two big things we talk about is the tempo of the game and the method. Maybe at times a little bit too high tempo.
“I’d rather be high tempo than low tempo though, to be honest, if those wickets are being difficult.
“But maybe the method went a little bit away from what we planned to do at times.”
The potential comebacks of Cameron Green, Mitchell Starc, and Josh Hazlewood may provide the Australian team with a boost for the remaining two Tests. Additionally, Mitchell Swepson might also rejoin the squad in India following the birth of his first child in Brisbane over the weekend.
David Warner’s continued participation in the series is in doubt as he recovers from concussion and elbow injuries.
“We’ve got a bit of time. We’ll have a think, have a look at different things,” said Cummins.
“I think over the next day or two we’ll look at any changes in the squad. Mitchell Swepson has gone home, he’s a chance of coming back. Hopefully Cam Green is available, Hazlewood, Starc (as well).
“We’ll evaluate our options in the next few days. We have a bit of a break to refresh ourselves and plenty of time to get ready before the next game,” said Cummins.
The Border-Gavaskar Qantas Tour of India 2023 features four Tests, with the first two already played and won by India. The third Test is scheduled for March 1-5 in Indore, with the fourth Test taking place on March 9-13 in Ahmedabad. All matches will be broadcast live and exclusively on Fox Cricket and Kayo Sports. The Australian squad for the tour includes Pat Cummins (c), Ashton Agar, Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Matt Kuhnemann, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Lance Morris, Todd Murphy, Matthew Renshaw, Steve Smith (vc), Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, and David Warner. The Indian squad features Rohit Sharma (c), KL Rahul (vc), Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KS Bharat, Ishan Kishan, Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Umesh Yadav, Suryakumar Yadav, and Jaydev Unadkat.