This summer’s chaotic and pandemic-ridden Australian cricket schedule may benefit India in its quest to repeat the victory of the past series.
India’s mandatory lockdown period, with training allowed, will provide the team more time to acclimatize to Australian conditions than the rushed pre-test schedule normally experienced by touring teams.
The additional training period during the lockdown gives players ample opportunity to determine what length is applicable in Australia and for hitters to get used to the unusually steep rebound. Many hitters on the road have trouble scoring enough back foot runs in Australia. It’s not enough to survive against shortstop bowling in Australia, you have to be able to score those deliveries too. Until a hitter shows he can run regularly against that attacking style, he will continue to be peppered with short things.
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Being on the receiving end of a short-lived concerted attack can shock a player and make their footwork uncertain. On the other hand, if he copes properly with attack, bowlers will have to resort to a more comprehensive attack mode and this can lead to greater chances of scoring.
This battle of wills was best summed up by former England fast bowler John Snow, who enjoyed a very successful tour of Australia in 1970-71. When asked to explain to the goalie, Snow replied, “It’s a short, emphatic test that you give the hitter.”
Mind you, if the Indian selectors have done their job correctly, the hitters currently enduring Sydney’s enclosure training will re-familiarize themselves with the requisites of bouncy pitches rather than being confused with experience.
Speaking of confusion, he was puzzled by the Australian coach’s summary of the choice between incumbent Joe Burns and rising star Will Pucovski for the job of David Warner’s opening partner. Justin Langer said, “When the guys have done a good job for us, like in this case, Joe [Burns] and Davey [Warner] did for us last summer, those kinds of partnerships are really important, so we should never underestimate that. “
In response, I would say that you shouldn’t overestimate the value of the partnership anyway. Burns’ contributions last summer totaled 256 runs out of an average of 32 with two half centuries. That is the performance of a below average test player.
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If no one else is running for the job, Burns keeps his spot. However, Pucovski has been banging on the door for a while, something Langer yearns for. Pucovski has brought a deck to the entrance by doing six centuries at Shield level, three of them double; two of those double hundreds arrived this season. He’s very and truly proven that he’s good enough at that level, so it’s time to see if he can succeed in the testing arena.
If the selectors are concerned about his mental health, which has so far been a problem in his short career, then now is the right time to see if he has overcome those problems in the pressure cooker of international competition. You’ll never have a better chance to prove yourself, with your confidence at an all time high after two consecutive centuries.
If Pucovski is elected and successful, he will form with Marnus Labuschagne, and perhaps Cameron Green, the backbone of Australia’s hitting when Warner and Steve Smith continue. Travis Head would be another candidate if he submits the proper form to retain his spot.
India also faces a selection dilemma when skipper Virat Kohli goes home for the birth of his first child after the opening test. This creates a huge void in the Indian batting order and an opportunity for one of their talented young players to make a name for himself.
What was already shaping up to be an exciting fight now has the added spur of crucial selection decisions. The result could well come down to who is the bravest group of selectors.