Marnus Labuschagne steps down the track during yesterday’s net session at Nagpur. Pic/Getty Images
Still smarting from their crushing innings defeat inside three days in the first Test at the VCA Stadium, Australia's cricketers hit the nets at the same venue on Monday morning in a bid to iron out the chinks in their batting armour.
Their designs of a practice session on Sunday on the same pitch on which they were mauled by R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja came to nothing with the host association turning down their plea to leave the surface unwatered. And while it's true that the Jamtha defeat exposed their technical inadequacies against the turning ball that are unlikely to disappear after one additional stint at training, Australia's primary concerns should revolve around their mental approach to the turning ball.
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In the immediacy of that massive loss, embattled skipper Pat Cummins spoke of the need for the batsmen to be âproactive'. "You saw Smithy [Steve Smith] and Alex Carey at times put the pressure back on the bowlers. It takes a bit of bravery, it's easier said than done," he observed. "If you're just facing ball after ball and the bowler's pretty good, you're going to get one with your name on it. That will be the conversation this week. If we get the same conditions, same bowlers, what are we going to do differently? I think at times probably being more proactive."
The reference to Carey was particularly interesting. The wicketkeeper-batsman fell sixth ball in the second innings, trapped by Ashwin on the reverse sweep, just as in the first innings. In his short stay, Carey attempted a conventional sweep or a reverse sweep to all six balls. On a track assisting spin, both are high-risk strokes, which begs the question of where the line starts to blur between proactive and recklessly hopeful.
The leaden feet of a majority of the batsmen pointed to a mind seized with the fear of what might be. In refusing to use their feet, they revealed a lack of faith in their techniques, defensive or otherwise. By sitting deep inside their crease and hoping to play off the back foot, they were leaving the door wide open for bowlers as skilled and masterly as Ashwin and Jadeja to do their bidding. It's no surprise then that four of Ashwin's five second-innings scalps were to leg before decisions.
Now that the third Test will not be played at Dharamsala, the one venue where Australia would have fancied their pace attack, imposing itself is now out of bounds. It becomes even more imperative now for them to free up their minds and focus on the ball, not the bowlers, in the second Test in Delhi if this series isn't to become embarrassingly one-way traffic all the way.