India v Australia, 1st Test, Chennai, 5th day February 26, 2013

Clarke wants batsmen to back their abilities


After India wrapped up their eight-wicket victory on the fifth morning in Chennai, Australia had a makeshift net set up around the dusty, crumbling pitch. Craters had developed behind the creases at both ends, where the batsmen's spikes had worn away at the dry surface. The unaffected midsection of the pitch had shrunk every day. To the Australia batsmen it might as well have been the surface of Mars as of the MA Chidambaram Stadium. At least the Martians aren't renowned for their spin bowling.

But Australia's batsmen know that over the next four weeks, the only way they will be able to fight back in the series, and hold on to the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, is if they find a way to thrive in the challenging conditions. The next Test starts on Saturday in Hyderabad and during the Chennai Test the former batsman-turned commentator VVS Laxman, a Hyderabad local, described the pitch for the second Test as hard and firm, but likely to crumble. Sound familiar?

So it was an encouraging sign for Australia that David Warner took the chance for some extra practice after the loss. He had faced 154 deliveries in the Test but did not appear at ease, and further work on the Test pitch cannot have hurt his preparation for Hyderabad. For the best part of an hour he faced spinners including Glenn Maxwell, Steven Smith and even his opponent Harbhajan Singh in the hastily-arranged net session in the middle of the ground.

As was seen during the match, the odd ball spat and others stayed low. But enough other deliveries were there to be hit, which some of the Australia batsmen struggled to do, especially during the second innings. The conditions were challenging but far from impossible to handle, as MS Dhoni showed during his double-century. If Australia are to bounce back, batsmen like Warner cannot get bogged down.

"I've always made very clear to the players I want them to back their own ability and play how they see fit," Australia captain Michael Clarke said after the eight-wicket loss. "It might have been quite tough for them to play the way they would have liked to play so credit has to go to the Indian bowlers. But the players know they have the freedom to play their way, play with intent and back your own ability. 

"The wicket played better than it looked. Both first innings the wicket was pretty good for batting, in the second innings as we thought the wicket did deteriorate and spun and bounced a lot more, and the bounce was inconsistent. I like to see a result in Test cricket. The fact that the game went five days says to me it's a pretty good Test match wicket."

As does the fact that three players, Clarke included, scored centuries over the course of the match. Even on the final morning, the debutant Moises Henriques had triple figures in his sights when he lost his last partner. But too many of the top-order batsmen fell into the trap, which Clarke spoke of before the match, of getting starts and failing to turn them into big scores.

Ed Cowan made 29 in the first innings and 32 in the second, Shane Watson scored 28 and 17, Warner managed 59 and 23, Matthew Wade made 12 and 8 and Phillip Hughes was the only one who failed to reach double figures in either innings. With the exception of Watson, all were playing Test cricket in India for the first time, and Clarke said he was confident they would have taken plenty from the experience.

"It's about learning in the conditions. You've got to play your way," Clarke said. "You've got to have your own plan. I'm sure they'll work that out. Ed played pretty well. He didn't make a big score but he played pretty well in both innings and he's looking like he's improving a lot against spin bowling. Hughesy couldn't have done much in the second innings. That ball bounced and spun so there's not much he could have done there."

Hughes did fall to a tricky ball that bounced sharply in the second innings and it was unfortunate because more than any other player in the side, he needs time in the middle. In the warm-up game against India A, Hughes scored 1 and 19, and in the Test he didn't survive more than 15 balls in either innings. The team travels to Hyderabad on Wednesday afternoon and will have two days to train in the lead-up to the second Test.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Harmon on March 1, 2013, 8:44 GMT

    @Meety: Do you have a problem with the wicket being firm all 5 days or helping the spinners? The wicket def did not crumble and it was easy to bat on it even on day 4 and 5 as your no 10 showed. So what exactly are you crying for? You can't make up your mind cos you really have nothing to start with. You are merely trying to stretch and harp on something that is just one of the various technique in making wickets.

  • DR Vijayakumar on February 28, 2013, 7:02 GMT

    in modern cricket, nobody walks, but the umpire is to be blamed, when you have a support system, you should utilise.

  • sidh on February 28, 2013, 6:16 GMT

    Why aus fans crying about that indian pithches not give assitanat to fast bowler and make pitches that help the fast bowler on day one in india.then why not aus to prepare some pitches in aus so that it give help to spiner on 4th prea

  • Andrew on February 28, 2013, 6:01 GMT

    @spiritwithin on (February 27, 2013, 10:41 GMT) - you say "... so how aus team decided that 'pitch center' will support pacers even though from the very look of it the pitch with all its firmness at the 'center' looked flat for fast bowlers..." what you FAIL to realise is this "...We started by making the entire pitch firm. After that we watered it selectively. The areas on either side of the stumps were kept dry, and so turned out to be loose. The line of the stumps was watered and rolled, so it stayed firm through the Test." - direct quote from curator. The pitch looked the SAME all over BEFORE the match. It is only later that it falls apart. Why allow it to fall apart anywhere? There would be ZERO evidence to suggest the pitch would behave like it did. Oz chose 4 pacers on the premise that there was no turn, so they may as well attack with their strength & use a wicket to wicket strategy. Given the curator has already admitted to manipulating in the past - why not now????

  • Andrew on February 28, 2013, 5:55 GMT

    @gsingh7 on (February 27, 2013, 8:35 GMT) - not walking does not = poor spirit of cricket. Every member of the Indian cricket team is just as guilty as Clarke - no more no less. Anything else to add? Try & make it remotely intelligent. @spiritwithin on (February 27, 2013, 10:41 GMT) - take your defensive blinkers off, & have a look at what I actually said. Fact 1: Selective watering is pretty much unheard of, Fact 2: You judge a pitch prior to the game under the ASSUMPTION that the pitch has been treated evenly across the surface. Fact 3: Oz clearly stated they were going to bowl a stump to stump line (worked in 2004). For the record, I have said on numerous occasions that India were the better side, my gripe is that Selective watering is INVISIBLE to management when they try to work out how a pitch will play. The curator CLEARLY stated that in 98, he watered outside leg stump in a match that happenned to have Warne in it. You telling me this doesn't LOOK suspect?

  • Nik on February 28, 2013, 2:10 GMT

    Hang on, we had: - a bloke score 150 - a spinner taking a 5-fer - a quick taking a 5-fer - another bloke scoring 200 - a result on day 5 (which could have been a lot closer had the team batting second scored another 50-100 runs).

    Isn't this what Test Match cricket is all about?

  • Dummy4 on February 27, 2013, 22:16 GMT

    This is why I like David Warner, he has the talent but even more so, the work ethic that will carry him through. Its the same with Ed Cowan and it is why Australia need to persist with both batsmen, because both are diamonds in the rough.

  • Harmon on February 27, 2013, 20:58 GMT

    Some ridiculous points being made by some ppls here. I can't believe the complete absence of ability to even talk some ppl are showing here. They are telling us that the diff between India and Aus wasn't that great here. They are telling us that If Lyon's figuree are removed then India did about as good as Aus in the 1st innings. They tell us that if MSD's knock is removed or only his avg score is taken in then India's innings becomes a moderate one. Well, is that how cricket is played? By deducting the best performance and/or not counting the worst performance? I don't think any Ind fan is saying that MSD will score 3 200s in the next 3 tests. But in the 1st test he did get one, didn't he? That remains a fact and it played a huge role in the big lead India got. This logic of saying that if we removes MSD's knock then not much remains is like saying that if we remove Einstein's brain then he is pretty much an average man. Obnoxiously Ridiculous.

  • Tim on February 27, 2013, 13:17 GMT

    True the Aussie batters are out of their comfort zone, but most got starts with exception of Hughes. I agree with Paul, it is mental issue why they did not score more. Loss of concentration even minor lapses is deadly on these type of pitches. Lack of belief may be an issue. Captain Michael needs to be investing in ways to improve our teams mental strength and apptitude. This is where the biggest improvements can be made. On Khawaja, there is definitely a case for him to be included as our number 6, but this leaves us with 4 bowlers and at the moment this is not enough for us to get 20 wickets consistently. Pity Bird is not a better batsmen, as he is real talent. Henriques is the best choice at present as he is a genuine wicket taker, if not over used, and has genuine ability with bat as we have all just witnessed.If he can contribute on average 2 wickets per match, average around 30 with bat we can win matches. This is on the proviso Wade improves as keeper and averages 40 with bat.

  • Dummy4 on February 27, 2013, 11:17 GMT

    Great too see Warner, willing to practice on this pitch after the game was over, even more important, was the Aussie back-up spinners, did to. But what was the greatest moment, was `Bhaji`, Harbhajan Singh, was practicing with the Aussies, trying too improve his own bowling. Now this is the spirit of Cricket, when 2 opposing teams can come together and train. Just goes too show, how well Indian and Australian Cricketer`s respect each other, and how well both teams get along. This is a fantastic moment for Cricket, and should not be under-estimated, when players from 2 Professional teams, can train together, and work on they`re batting and bowling.

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