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25 February, 2021

Should England's Batsmen & Batting Coaches Have Consulted Gavaskar How To Play Spin?



England's batsmen, including their impressive-against-spin captain Joe Root succumbed to a common theme - caught at the crease - while playing spin during their first innings batting in this pink-ball Test.

They chose to bat and crumbled to 112 all out to the guile of local hero Axar Patel and now spin wizard Ravichandran Ashwin.

It's not clear how many batsmen from this English side paid heed to "How Do You Play Spin Bowling?", a video released on March 13, 2019 by the England & Wales Cricket Board. 

This video shows England's current assistant batting coach Graham Thorpe, who's touring with this team and is in Ahmedabad, sharing his "Batting Masterclass" captioned "Graham Thorpe's Batting Tips".
See video here:

ECB's teaser also asks: "Ready to be the next superstar batsman? Watch Graham Thorpe's tips to improve your game.

What this video does not specify is how to smother spin on a pitch such as the red-soiled one at Motera, Ahmedabad for the 3rd Test, where the deliveries from Axar and Ashwin didn't keep low, had bounce and were bowled straighter more than spin.

The last one, straighter deliveries on a turning track, are a result of  creativity and smartness on the part of Axar and Ashwin and the homework they have put in with their bowling coach Bharati Arun.

India's batting legend Sunil Gavaskar was quick to point out the lacunae in how England's batsmen approached and reacted to Axar and Ashwin. 

Gavaskar said most English batsmen believed that staying back in their crease and playing Axar and Ashwin was the right way. Perhaps, this was the lesson they derived from their debacle in the second Test at the Chepauk to this Indian spin duo. 

On this Motera pitch all the English batsmen had to do is play forward, reach to the pitch of the ball and smother the spin, Gavaskar advised.

England seemed to have recovered some lost advantage by reducing India to 99 for 3, including the wicket of two of India's big hopes, skipper Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara, by the end of the first day's play.

However, India still have their second Test hero and Hitman, Rohit Sharma at the crease, apart from the strong depth in their batting lineup awaiting their turn.

England would do well to focus on how to play smarter and restrict India to below 150 to remain buoyant in this match.

On the first day, England spent considerable time arguing on umpiring decisions after the poor batting display ended.

Their antics, led by Root, haven't gone unnoticed by the English media. Here are links to how the English press has reacted:

England produce their worst day of the winter as India dominate day one of crunch Test match 

BCCI Beware: India's cricket administrative body, the Board of Control for Cricket in India may need to be wary of any further or next grievance coming from the England camp.

England's head coach Chris Silverwood and captain Root have already raised a formal complaint about inconsistency in umpiring decisions with Match Referee Javagal Srinath.

The next complaint could be the divots caused by the pace bowlers' landing foot at the crease before releasing the delivery. 

These divots are now described by Scyld Berry in The Telegraph UK as "a crater bigger than anything made by the spacecraft that landed on Mars". 

There's genuine cause to worry in this matter as former India pacer, Ajit Agarkar, now commentating too felt that these holes could affect a pace bowler's foothold, causing not only a wayward line and length but also physical harm.

These footholds are likely to be the talking point as the match progresses.

Tags: Pink Ball Test, Virat Kohli, IndvEng, EngvInd, Motera, Ahmedabad, Narendra Modi Stadium, Sardar Patel Stadium, Gujarat, Paytm Test Series, Joe Root, Shubman Gill, Axar Patel, Ashwin


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