Since time immemorial, sub-continent Cricket has been known for producing some of the best spinners. Asians have largely depended on turning pitches to win games, both at home and overseas. Coming to India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka or Bangladesh and winning a match against our lethal Spin attack is a near-impossible task. The SENA Countries go through a tough mental and on-field preparation routine when they have a cub-continent tour. The Spin Trap, as it is often referred to, not only threatens their winning chances, but also their reputation.
No matter how much we terrify opposition batters with our spin trap, are our batsmen facing the same ill-fortune against outsiders who have now mastered the art of spin? In recent times, some Indian and Pakistani batsmen have struggled against quality spin. Be it Virat Kohli or Babar Azam, the oppositions seek to bring in their best spinners when these two come to the crease. This brings us to a hair-raising question – Are Asians falling victim to their own spin trap?
Why Asians are Falling into their Own Spin Trap?
With League Cricket and T20 Cricket being the priority of most batters these days, technique has taken a backseat. The focus is completely on swatting the ball over the covers rather than maneuvering it or defending it. Some even consider the old style-of-play or conservative defensive cricket as boring. With England, revolutionizing Test Cricket and being successful at it, it is not far when fast scoring becomes a norm in all formats of the game.
When one’s form is not at its best and they come on the crease, they have an increased burden of scoring runs. If they continue to defend and consume balls to play themselves in, then they get into a shell. This slows down the pace of the game, which is unacceptable in this day and age. If they try to go on the offensive, then either their footwork or their hand-eye coordination gets in the way, and they are often a victim at the hands of the wicketkeeper.
Is White Ball Cricket to Blame?
With the amount of white ball cricket these days, the batters are generally prepared for flat pitches where the ball has minimum turn. Hence, they prepare accordingly by practicing on balls which turn very less – 0.5 or 1 degree to the maximum. Even if the balls start to turn more in the shorter format, the batters get away by scoring quick 20-30’s which contributes a lot to the team total.
As soon as Test matches come up, the pitches start to turn a lot. We can often see balls turn up to 2.5 to 3 degrees. However, the year-round preparation of the batsman is not up to the mark to play these turning balls. Hence, he starts fumbling with footwork or gets confused with each turning delivery. This is the perfect time for the bowlers to lay a spin trap!
Kohli, Babar Fumble Against Spin
If we talk about Virat Kohli, the master of technique, fitness and perseverance. The King has recovered his form in white ball cricket. He is just about showing glimpses of his return in red ball. His poor – run in the past few years, have planted some doubts in his head. Even though he is at his confident best while facing the pacers, they spinners seem to boggle him a bit.
In Virat’s case, he was often playing front-foot balls on his back-foot, hence allowing the ball to spin more. However, he seems to have developed a method to correct this folly in his last innings of 44 runs.
In the case of another master batter – Babar Azam whose cover drives are rated amongst the best in the world, often has the worst fate against quality to mediocre spinners. He often fails to read the googly out of a bowler’s hand. Hence, either the ball scoops up for an easy catch, or he is trapped in front of the wicket.
Playing the ball late or from your back foot can have disastrous consequences as the ball is allowed to go through its complete trajectory.
Rohit Sharma’s Strategy to Counter Spin
Rohit Sharma may be just in the process of regaining his form, but the genius batter has excellent technique against spin. He was stretching to the full to cut the entire spin of the ball in the Nagpur Test. Even though the Todd Murphy was getting more spin that the Indian Spinners, but Rohit could still negate it. He went on to make a century where other Indian batters fell like nine pins. Rohit Sharma’s game is looking so intact in the Border – Gavaskar Series that even the Australian greats are telling their team to take a leaf out of his book.
Pitches made to Suit Home Advantage
The bigger question here is that if your countrymen are continuously falling prey to a particular spinner or unable to adapt themselves to proper spinning conditions, then should Asian countries still rely on turning pitches? The answer is Yes.
The soil, weather and the Asian batsmen’s natural skill is to play spin well. It is almost in their DNA to emerge victorious on turning tracks. If one starts preparing flat pitches for Test Matches, then you are giving away home advantage to the visitors who are habitual to hit out in non-turning pitches. It is better to have one or two of our batters’ struggle against the turning ball. In return, we are getting their entire Playing XI to struggle against these tough conditions.
The England Tour of Pakistan in December 2022 was a prime example where flat pitches were prepared, and every second batsman was scoring centuries. Pakistan’s management were not confident of playing to their strength which was most definitely bowling. The English came and swung their bats with disdain. They hit to all corners of the park and the Pakistani’s had no way of stopping them.
The ongoing Border – Gavaskar Trophy is a classic case of what happens when one prepares track according to their strength. It may get difficult for our own batters, but it shall never be as much as the Aussies find it. When we go to their country to play, we are also treated with pace and bounce. So, there is no harm in taking a slight advantage on your home ground.
Spin Trap is the Way to Go
Also, we Asians are fast learners and good adapters. We do not get mentally bogged down with small adjustments. Our Coaches, Analysts and Legends have been born and bought up in spinning conditions. So, if a Virat Kohli or a Babar Azam finds it difficult adjusting, it will just be a small tweak which will send them off to being their very best!
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