Basking in the glory of India’s unprecedented success over Australia in the recently-concluded Test series, Indian cricket team bowling coach Bharat Arun said how a single call from head coach Ravi Shastri helped him to devise a strategy to stop Australia’s run-machine Steve Smith. Australian batsmen fell nicely into the leg-side trap set by the Indian bowlers during the fiercely-contested series that ended earlier this week but its planning, spearheaded by head coach Shastri, started way back in July, Arun revealed on Friday. Also Read - Match Highlights India vs England, 4th Test Day 2: Rishabh Pant, Washington Sundar Put IND on Top
Not just the pacers, even the spinners attacked the stumps of Australia’s batting pillars, Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne, with fielders at catching positions on the leg side. India won the series 2-1 after pulling off a stunning chase on day five in the fourth and final Test at the Gabba. Also Read - Former India Cricketer Manoj Tiwary to Contest Assembly Election From Shibpur
Speaking to media in an online press conference, Arun said the ploy to strangle the Australians was Shastri’s brainchild. “Ravi called me sometime in July and we were discussing the Australia tour, that we needed to take the offside out of the Australians. So, we had our own analysis and we felt most of the runs Smith and Labuschagne scored and most of the Aussie batsmen, they had got lot of runs out of the cut, pull and on the offside,” the 58-year-old said. Also Read - Bishan Singh Bedi Health Update: 'Doing Fine' After Bypass Surgery, Ex-Cricketer Expected to be Released Soon
Arun said they also learnt from how the New Zealand bowlers, especially Neil Wagner, troubled Smith during the series between the Trans-Tasmanian rivals in the previous season.
“We took a cue out of the NZ attack. When they bowled to Steve Smith, they had bowled bodyline to him and he felt very uncomfortable.
“So, Ravi called up and said ‘I want you to make a plan where you eliminate the offside out of the Australians’.
“He said we will attack straighter lines and have an on-side field so it is very difficult for batsmen to be consistently clearing the onside fields. That really worked for us.”
Arun said the plan was subsequently communicated to skipper Virat Kohli. “The thought process started sometime in July then we had discussions with Virat.
“He bought into the theory and we employed the same strategy in Adelaide and Ajinkya was magnificent from Melbourne onwards. The bowlers responded beautifully to that,” said the bowling coach.
The likes of Shardul Thakur, Washington Sundar and T Natarajan were made to stay back post the limited-overs leg of the tour and with India hit by a barrage of injuries during the Test series, all three ended up playing the Brisbane Test and did rather well.
“…I think it was a great move by Ravi Shastri to hold back all the bowlers who had come in as net bowlers,” said Arun.
“After the ODI series most of them were supposed to go back but somehow, we thought in case anything happens to a player then it would be impossible for anyone to come because of the (quarantine) restrictions.
“So, we said we will manage with everyone here and because they were with us for a period of time, they were able to understand what it demands to be successful in Australia and work on those lines. So, them being with us helped a great deal.”
And the support staff made sure even the net bowlers like Sundar got to bat in the nets. As it turned out, he and Thakur’s 123-run stand for the seventh wicket in the first innings allowed India to fight back in the game.
“Washington, though he was a net bowler, used to bat every day for half an hour. We needed to spend extra hours in the net but we needed to give each and every one the attention. In the end it paid off,” said Arun.
Barring the day-night Test at Adelaide, India played five specialist bowlers, which has been the norm overseas under Virat Kohli’s captaincy.
“…On most occasions, we play five bowlers abroad because to bowl out a team in conditions abroad demands a lot out of just four bowlers. It’s a huge task.”
The thoughts of playing an extra batsman did creep in after the Adelaide debacle but the team stuck to its beliefs, said Arun.
“The guiding principle of this team is to be fearless and honest. We don’t fear losing games. They teach us a lot of lessons.
“In the last Test there were discussions about playing an extra batsman but we felt that it would have been a negative move and all of us felt the five-bowler theory has worked for us. We knew Washington Sundar is more than a capable bat,” said Arun.
The injuries were a setback but at the same time, they did expose India’s solid bench strength in the bowling department. Whoever was given an opportunity rose to the occasion.
“If you want India to be doing well sustainably, you need a pool of bowlers who will be rotated time and again so that they stay fresh. Now we are blessed with a great bench strength…”
“This tour has taken a lot out of the boys, but now in future when you have seven fast bowlers raring to play for the country.
“With the number of Tests we are going to play — four against England here and five in England –, it will be very handy. They will all be rotated and we will make sure the best team is put forward,” he said.
Arun added that Kuldeep Yadav, who has not played a Test since January 2019, will get his chance at some point, starting with the home series against England next month.
“Horses for courses is the best thing and when he gets a chance to play, he will show what he can do because he is bowling magnificently now and in India when we play these four Tests it will be his time.
“And also the spinners Jadeja and Ashwin have been magnificent, number one and two spinners in the world. Jadeja’s rise as an all-rounder is a huge-huge bonus for the country,” added Arun.