Almanac Cricket: Two reasons India will spin webs around Aussie batsmen

Next week the first Test between kicks off in Pune. The contest will be dramatic. The war of words strident and the crowds big and loud. Can Australia compete?


India’s form is irresistible. They are undefeated in 18 consecutive Tests. Most were at home. They just beat Bangladesh 1-0 in a solitary Test and England 4-0 across five Tests.


The England series was compelling for Australian fans. England posted 400 and 500+ totals on three occasions. In the first Test they had India on the back foot, but India held on for a narrow draw.


India then found rhythm and England were thrashed. Despite having five of the series’ top ten run scorers England were routed by superior batting. Virat Kohli scored 655 runs at an average of 109. India passed 400 five times, their biggest total was declared at 7/759.


Meanwhile, Australia’s batting has been a widely publicised problem. Two recent series losses to Sri Lanka and South Africa were papered over by a resurgence against Pakistan. New faces adorned the top order. Handscomb and Renshaw provide hope. But India away is next level. Difficult conditions, big crowds, lots of noise, falling wickets, men around the bat, blunt words and pressure to hold on.


Can Australia avoid past mistakes? The common phrase ‘play your natural game’ is a pitfall. It is bandied about too often. It’s a license to throw your wicket away in difficult circumstances. Chase a wide one in the hope you’ll get a few, before they get you.


Steve Smith has forecast change. Aggression is not the only tactic. Counter-attack has often failed. Australia’s batsmen need to be prepared to go to war in the dusty trenches. For hours, even days.


For Australia, the question isn’t how do we take 20 wickets? But rather, how do we score 600 every time we bat. Warner’s quick 100s need to be converted into bigger, longer scores. The top order must bat long and wear down India’s bowlers, who won’t be intimidated by one-off rapid scoring.


Ashwin and Jadeja need to be stopped. India’s two top spinners spun webs around England. Ashwin bowled 300 overs and took 28 wickets at 30. Jadeja bowled 290 overs and took 26 wickets at 25 in five Tests.


It was all about spin. The leading fast-medium bowler on the England tour was India’s Shami. He took just 10 wickets.Each of England’s pace bowlers took fewer than 8 wickets across the series.


The point here is spin. It’s all about spin. And batting big. Really big. Starc and Hazlewood will play a role. But Lyon, O’Keefe, Agar and Swepson will be important. But nothing is more important than runs and Australia will be tempted to cram as many batsmen into its XI as possible.


Enjoy the ride, this series will be awesome. Cricket Froth will be there for fourth Test in Dharamshala. So stay tuned for up-close analysis.


This article first appeared on 


About Pat White

I love Test cricket and struggle to embrace T20. One is like reading a great novel with a twisting plot and intriguing characters and the other is a cheap and trashy magazine. But the popular trashy mag is here to stay. So let's help cricket's new audience discover the romance and frantic drama of cricket's greatest format; Test Match. Join me for some non-establishment cricket analysis and get involved by posting a comment.


  1. Peter Warrington says

    Yes Pat in 2008 and 10 we also made big scores in the first dig but were still unable to win, and often even to draw.

    Quite remarkable that India can concede 400+ early and still win comfortably.

    Who can be our second dig, day 4 hero, when it is low and sideways? Might have to be Smith but is a giant opportunity for Handscomb.

    Think Kim Hughes saving Adelaide against Pakistan in 83/4. Faf and AB at the same ground.

    Really, it is a chance for Shaun Marsh to pay us all back. Graft on day 3 and 4, bat time and build partnerships.

    (Reasonably confident that Warner, Khawaja, Renshaw and any of Maxwell, M Marsh or Agar are not that guy. They can still Matter, just not in this.)

  2. I predict a four nil result but it is a series that will answer a few things.

    Is Smith the best batsman in the world?

    Is Warner a good test batsman?

    Is this the last time we have to put up with the Marshs?

    Is Lyon worth his test spot?

    I cannot wait and remember it is the contest, not the resul,t that matters

  3. A few observations off the top of my head:
    This is a huge series for Warner. Batting at the top of the order is more often the best time to bat, so he needs to cash in and really bat time. He has batted time occasionally, but not very often. He was disappointing in Sri Lanka and beat up on an average Pakistani attack. If he fails in this series he will continue to be regarded as a flat-track (home) bully.
    An important series for Nathan Lyon also. As the years have gone on I have really gone off him as a Test bowler. He just cannot bowl a tight line – always bowls one or two an over too straight which gives away an easy single to relieve the pressure. The Indians will target him – and he may be out of the side by series end in favour of giving Swepson a go in a lost cause.
    This Test squad is truly a Bob Cunis squad – neither one thing nor the other.

  4. well played, Pat.
    going to Dharamshala..? Every shot I see of the ground, the stands, the backdrop, looks like it’s taken from a Wes Anderson film. Brilliant. Send us photos.

    The Aus batting selections have consistently rewarded flat track bullies; at the expense of those with patience, e.g. Ed Cowan.
    I think it’s a whole appeal-of-the-sport argument that coach and selectors are addressing there. D Lehmann has often spoken of the importance of spectacle and of being in the entertainment business.

    And that’s a worthy topic for debate. For entertainment is a most subjective idea. And we probably run enough varieties of cricket to entertain most.

    But the “play your natural game” furphy does a disservice to critical thinking and to awareness. You can’t reasonably select one-dimensional sloggers and expect them to bat in India for five sessions. Or select fragile spinners and expect them to impose themselves on a towering batting line up.

    Even with MA Starc bowling incredibly well in Sri Lanka, Australia made insufficient runs.
    Runs, runs, runs. Time, time, time.

    Looking forward to this very much.

  5. Yeah, Dharamshala would be amazing. As much as I love Adelaide Oval I reckon people that used to describe it as the most beautiful cricket ground had never seen Dharamshala (as I had not at the time). As for the series, yeah, Australia will most likely get thumped. Lyon will need to call on his, at times lacking, resilience. As Smokie says the Indians will go after him but with his confidence up he could do some damage. Visiting spinners last year in India took plenty of wickets but at a fair cost. Hopefully at the very least we get a Smith/Kohli bat off. Enjoy the trip!

  6. I was never a fan but Voges’ debut ton was a slow gem, won us a series.

    ditto re Cowan, never a fan but he did fight, on the field as well as off, in India last time. may have rubbed off on Phil H, who got better as the series went on

    Renshaw and Handscomb and S Marsh, with Smith as conductor. Nevill batting as he did in Perth rather than the 20 innings either side would have been handy; oh well.

    O’Keefe might be handy, he can chew up 50+ balls fairly regularly. 4 from 98 takes some doing!

    S MArsh
    M Marsh

    bats pretty deep and could bowl ok? open the bowling with S’. etc etc etc

    defensively attacking? passive aggressive?

  7. Thanks for the comments and insights fellas. Heaps of good points.

    It’s a massive series. The smart money is on a big Indian win. The Australians have proved in the last few years, especially away from home in Asia and England, that they cannot resist immense pressure on their batting. The collapses have been dramatic and regular. The one thing that excites me about this series is that Smith has explicitly acknowledged this.

    He made encouraging comments about changing Australia’s approach, demoting the attack at all costs concept and demanding that his players learn to bat long and fight. Of course, these are just sentiments. Do we have the cattle to execute?

    Working with who we have there, Shaun Marsh has to play a role. I still wouldn’t be surprised if they picked Handscomb to keep, which means you could add another batsman/all-rounder, maybe Maxwell, M Marsh or Agar. I’d prefer another quality batsman, not sure if we have another one there but batting too 7 would be good.

    It’s a bold call, do you disrupt Handcomb’s development? Is he good enough to keep? But is Wade good enough to score runs at 7? As Peter said above, we need to bat across two innings, perhaps even survive a fourth innings onslaught.

    Nathan Lyon. I was gutted when he became an apparent cult hero this summer. Kind of absolves the bloke from criticism. I think he has enjoyed a unique protected species status due to the sheer number of spinners we picked between he and Warne/MacGill. The debatable notion that we ‘need to stick with someone’ benefited Lyon. He must deliver this series. There are no excuses. Adil Rasheed took lots of wickets for England so Swepson should figure at some point. The Indians will attack our spinners, no doubt. Then wear down our quicks.

    Cannot wait for Dharamshala. Any tips for travel up there will be gratefully received.

  8. yes picking and sticking became a thing. and not backing T-20 form became a thing. which both benefited Lyon. who was picked on T 20 form.

    he gets a chance to prove us all wrong. think he will prove us right.

    personally, his main job is to get his RPO down to near 3. that will make it harder for India to win if we can clock up 400+ in our first dig. 2-60 off 20 is better than 4-100 off 25 in these conditions, especially if he has his usual 1 or 2 for 80 along the way.

    perhaps bowling around the wicket is the key for him?

    (anyway he’s not in my batsman heavy Xi for the first.)

  9. Your batsmen heavy is not bad Peter. It’s pretty close to a concept I’ve been considering. Traditionally you’re looking to make sure you can take 20. But I think we have to break away from that and think runs. We cannot win if we don’t score lots. I’d rather four draws of attrition than be routed inside three days and lose 4-0 because we ‘played our natural game’ and tried to attack our way out of every situation.

  10. it goes against my grain. invokes the selection of S Waugh in the Windies in 90-1 at 7. but when I looked back we almost won the first time we did it )weather) and were well in it the nest time – AB, Junior and even Deano bowled spin in those games.

    I think my XI is a 20% worse bowling line up than the likely team. but it’s up to a 40% better batting combo – i mean imagine Starc at 11, it would be like Agar…

    after what has happened there the last 3 times, and given we only need draws to hold the series, I think I would be willing to hold my nose and watch us rope-a-dope, see how India respond to 8-700 in the first dig two tests in a row.

    Josh Hazlewood would be entitled to come and punch me in the nose, best bowler in the world left out for “structure”. oh well…

  11. I’d be happy to lose 3-0, though i’d prefer 2-0. We saw how well Starc bowled in Sri Lanka, twice we were well on top yet lost 3-0! Doesn’t augur well for this series.

    Can Warner build an innings rather than just bludgeon one ? Khawaja has shown to be very vulnerable against spin in the short time he faces them at the crease. This is a huge challenge. Renshaw, Handscomb, big test for these young chaps. S Marsh has a good record in the sub continent; now he needs to enhance it!

    I’m intrigued that pre-tour pundits were saying to pick a side with specialist batsmen, specialist bowlers, not full of ‘all rounders’. What did the selectors do? The exact opposite.England had lots of players tagged as all rounders and the series result showed the limitation of that approach.

    I’d love to be proven wrong, but only two Australian sides have won series in India during my life time and i’m not convinced this lineup is equal let alone superior to them.

    Good luck chaps.


  12. in Sri Lanka only Smith (only 41) averaged more than 27 (excluding S Marsh). no matter how matches oscillate, you can’t win like that. and Smith’s ton came in the dead rubber.

    these were some of the worst figures since the Ashes of 78-9 and 81.

    in terms of England in India, maybe they did better within matches than another line up would have? i can’t really think of any bowlers they might have chucked in?

  13. i didn’t realise that only one of Smith’s 17 tons was at less than 50, years back at Centurion.

    150 off 350. that’s the tempo.

  14. Yeah the tempo thing interesting Peter. Runs are primary, but time is critical here too. I like Warner scoring tons, don’t get me wrong, but when they come inside the first session or off 100 balls, then gets out. The middle order get exposed to newer balls, fresher bowlers and the opposition still has loads of time to fight back. Some of our blokes are going to need to bat long as well score big. Something few of them appear capable of.

    I reckon you’re probably right Glen, more specialists might have helped. Certainly batsmen. If Warner, Renshaw, Khawaja, Smith, Handscomb or SMarsh are injured or fail whose next? Maxwell, M Marsh… unconvincing.

  15. So Warner just got out for 25 off 30 against India A. Team is:
    S Marsh

  16. Cranky Pete, I don’t mind the idea of a batting-heavy line-up, provided they can knuckle down and bat for five sessions. No good having 8 batsmen if you are going to be 6/150.
    But this would suggest that Glenn Maxwell will bowl. A memo to all: that part-time rubbish that Maxi bowls is not fit for any ground with a fence around it. Smith made it quite clear in the recent ODI series what he thought of the Big Show’s bowling abilities. In the five matches, he did not bowl. He did not bowl one ball. Not one. Do you seriously think Smith will want him as his second or third spinner in a Test match in India?
    Pat, if they plump for Handscomb as keeper it will be the first set on an inevitable WB Phillips type decline. Handscomb’s batting improved markedly when he gave away the keeping Victoria. And he has admitted as such.

  17. Smokie, Maxwell has 7 at 27 and a strike rate in the 30s in tests in India. worth a crack. he fields and bats better than his direct competition. but isn’t as good a bloke. unless you ask Watto because, then, he is…

  18. bird listed at 6. is it alphabetical?!

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