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Cool it, conquer it

Updated on: 26 February,2023 07:45 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Ian Chappell |

Australia’s selection on tour have been awfully inconsistent and at times irrational. Along with effectively putting a stop to personal dressing room tantrums, an air of calmness can aid team spirit

Cool it, conquer it

Australia players during the second Test at New Delhi last week. Pic/Getty Images

Ian ChappellMy perception of playing good spin bowling in India is ancient, it occurred more than five decades ago.

Can it still work? If similar principles are followed, complimented by a commonsense upbringing, then bloody oath it can.

You have to learn good footwork—coming three paces out of your crease or retreating quickly onto the back foot—at a young age. You don’t discover how to play good spin bowling later in life on a scarified Australian pitch just prior to a vital tour of India.

I trusted my defence in India

I was taught (not in the metric era), “If you’re stumped, make it by three yards not three inches.”

This was wonderful advice, followed by, “Don’t consider the wicketkeeper, because if you do, you’re thinking about missing the ball.”

Armed with those brilliant suggestions and years of on-the-job training in all forms of cricket, I trusted my defence in India. If you don’t, as the current Australian team adequately displayed, you can easily be panicked into playing a rash shot.

A successful player needs to quickly work out how to survive the first 10 minutes on a typical Indian pitch encouraging spin and hope he enjoys a share of the luck. If he plays sensibly like Rohit Sharma, who has admirably shown during the series, batting isn’t impossible on testing Indian pitches.

Sweeping is not the answer

Sweeping regularly is not the answer to playing good spin bowling and anyone who says so is talking through his hat. The odd player is very good at sweeping and should utilise the shot, but for the majority there are better ways.

Fielding captains must involve danger in playing the sweep shot. You do so by placing catching men at 45 degrees behind square-leg and at backward point where mistimed sweep shots generally fall. Captains must be brave and favour the catching option rather than placing boundary-saving fielders for well hit sweep shots. Any good spin bowler who makes the ball bounce is likely to expose the dangers in sweeping constantly.

Lessons to be learned in India should have been glaringly obvious in  Australia’s build up. The most beneficial are to watch the ball closely (more so than in Australia) and that there is a fraction more time than you think.

Once a batsman understands about the extra time on slightly slower Indian pitches, he can work the ball into a gap to collect precious runs. Those runs, especially early in an innings when survival is treacherous, can frustrate even the best spinners.

Selectors can be fooled into thinking that playing spin bowling well in Australia automatically means success will follow on Indian pitches. That isn’t so, but if the method in Australia is a sound one then selectors should assume it could lead to success in India.

Australia’s selection on tour has been awfully inconsistent and at times irrational. Along with effectively putting a stop to personal dressing room tantrums, an air of calmness can aid team spirit.

Successful players from the 1970s were accused of preaching “old-time cricket,” at the Australian Academy following Rod Marsh’s departure for England.

Old-time it may have been, but it was also winning cricket. There are ways to win at the highest level, but adding extra layers of management to the system is not one of them. 

O’Reilly’s insightful advice

Former great spin bowler Bill O’Reilly told me; “Coat minders at junior pick up games go on to become members of the Australian Cricket Board.”
It was insightful advice. 

The number of coaches and ‘hangers on’ has increased to a ridiculous point as the occasionally naive players mislead administrators who have an alarming lack of knowledge about how to win at the highest level. 

Like picking a well-balanced cricket team, good administrations should be a sensible combination of playing knowledge at the highest level along with sound business acumen so the game is well managed. 

The Australian cricket team are very good at many venues around the cricket world, but alarm bells should have rung long ago concerning the looming trip 
to India.

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