Tag Archives: Rishabh

Doctor, Is It Contagious?

For several years now – and from before Steve Smith and David Warner were sanctioned – Australia’s batting in Test matches has been poor. It has been characterised by batsmen throwing their hands at the ball, failing to rotate the strike, trying to hit every ball to the boundary and failing utterly to master the Art of the Leave. Darren Lehmann used to say this was okay because the batsmen were ‘playing their natural game’. I always thought this was dumb. He apparently failed to realize their ‘natural game’ was very short in tenure because they were getting out very quickly. Some folks have said this phenomenon is due to the batsmen playing too much white ball (especially T20 cricket). I never really understood how this could be the root cause of Australia’s malaise because all cricketing nations were playing just as much T20 cricket as Australia but still seemed to bat far better than Australia in Test matches.

Perhaps Australia was just ahead of the curve. On the first day of the First Test against Australia in Adelaide today, most of the Indian batsmen played like……well…..like Australians. On a fairly benign wicket, all of the Indian top six except Cheteshwar Pujara tried from the outset to dominate. They tried to drive. They did not leave the ball. They got out, mostly caught behind the wicket. Rohit Sharma (who is to India what Aaron Finch is to Australia) is a white ball specialist whose dismissal was nothing short of moronic. I had never seen Rishabh Pant bat before, but if he approaches Test batting in the same casual and carefree manner that he played with today, I doubt he will be in the Test team for long.

Pujara’s fine century was a textbook example of how a Test batsman should drop anchor, disregard his strike rate and wear down the bowlers, then cash in later in the day. Apparently he is regarded as such a Test specialist that he doesn’t have an IPL contract. Commentator Harsha Bogle mentioned that Sunil Gavaskar used to tell other Indian batsmen, “Give them the first session, then you take the next two.” Brilliant advice. Why are so few Test batsmen able to do it? Australia’s Test batsmen have failed in this regard for some years now (Chris Rogers was arguably the last successful opening batsman to bat like a snail), but today’s performance by India makes me wonder if the white ball sickness has now spread to the Indians.

Make no mistake: Australia’s batting is very brittle and India’s score of 9-250 may yet turn out to be competitive thanks entirely to Pujara. But any self-respecting Test side should make at least 350-400 on that Adelaide pitch, if only they can see off the new ball, dig in and tire out the bowlers. If Australia wants to show they have learned anything at all about Test batting, Day Two will be their chance. I’m not sure they have, but we’ll see.