Miller’s half-century in vain as Hasan-Nawaz all-round show helps Pakistan bag the series
14 Feb 2021
As the curators have started producing pitches with a lot of turns and bounce for the spinners in the last two Tests against India, the onus have been shifted from bowlers to batsmen to score big.
But, the challenge of batting against quality spinners on pitches offering turn has been proven insurmountable for batsmen on either side, more so for the England batsmen who have had tough dealing with the pin-point accuracy of Axar Patel and variations and crafts of Ravichandran Ashwin.
Now, one of the finest players against spin bowling, VVS Laxman has explained the different facets of batting against spin, and that how can batsmen score on tough pitches.
In an interview with The Observer, Laxman has emphasized the need for good defence, which he says allows them to bat freely instead of getting worried about saving both edges of their bat. He added that a batsman who has trust in his defence will not be restless at the crease and wander out of the crease in search of a ball, whereas he will be able to focus and pick the length of the ball early to play accordingly.
“You have to have belief in your defence. If you don’t, your mind is restless, shot selection becomes problematic, decision-making translates into poor footwork, into reaching towards the ball, picking the length wrongly, and that will lead to your dismissal. You will look out of place batting on these surfaces,” Laxman said to the Observer.
Batsmen from either side have also been guilty of getting caught in the crease and not putting a long stride out to smother the spin. Laxman, however, believes that a longer stride can also be counterproductive if the length of the stride is too much as it will not allow batsman a leeway to play with the bat in front of the pad, instead, they will have to use both bat and pad and ultimately leading to either the threat of LBW or spooning a catch to fielders positioned very close.
“If the stride is too long, the bat is behind the pad and you’re giving a chance for lbw and catch close in. Once you get the stride right and the bodyweight is transferring forward, you will automatically play with soft hands. Even if you’re beaten by the bounce at the last moment, you can adjust. Your bat and hand position should be such that, at the last moment, you can drop your wrists or take your bat up and leave the ball. Once you take a long stride, you’re locked,” Laxman said.
“Once you’re comfortable with your defence, you play to save one edge, not both. On a turning track, you always play for the ball that comes in. Your bat should be vertical and you look to play back to the bowler. More often than not you won’t get bowled because you’re covering the line of the delivery,” Laxman added.
There remains a lot of talk about batsman playing with the turn or against and also the advantages of the former while in general purists blame batsmen for the latter.
However, in Laxman’s views, what matters is the risk to reward ratio and not the conventional wisdom and he emphasized that for a right-handed batsman, hitting a left-arm spinner over is a low-percentage, especially on pitches that offer bounce. Instead, he said, on such pitches, slog sweep works fine as a mishit will go over point, while a well-connected shot will go over midwicket for high-value.
“On a turning track, hitting a left-arm spinner over extra cover is not a high percentage, because you don’t know how much it is going to grip and how much it is going to bounce. The risk of a leading edge to point is high. The slog sweep, where you’re covering the bounce, is a smarter option. If you hit hard and connect cleanly, it will go over midwicket. If you edge, it will go over point.”
The fourth and final Test of the series between India and England is scheduled to start on March 04 at Motera. According to various media reports, the pitch is not going to be a lot different than the one used in the last game, but the absence of a pink ball will help batsmen after a Test that lasted only two days.