Australia's batsmen must 'go against instincts'
Australia's batsmen must find a way to ignore their instincts if they are to have success in India, the team's batting coach Michael Di Venuto has said. Australia's captain Michael Clarke said after the Hyderabad Test he had been disappointed by the number of players who were out to cross-bat shots or hitting against the spin early in their innings, and the coach Mickey Arthur was angry at the sweeps that proved costly for Phillip Hughes and David Warner.
Matthew Hayden, who is in India commentating, said the secret to batting success in the country was to play straight, but the batsmen have struggled to adapt over the first two Tests. In his first Test tour since being appointed as batting coach in February, Di Venuto has the challenge of turning those woes around for the third Test in Mohali, and he said the major thing the batsmen needed to get their heads around was that what comes naturally is not always a good plan in India.
"I think a lot of batting is done on instinct," Di Venuto told ESPNcricinfo. "The guys have been brought up in Australia and playing in Australian conditions where if you see a ball on a certain length, it normally bounces a certain height. Then you come to a foreign country and all of a sudden it doesn't bounce like it does at home. You've got to go against your instincts.
"You've got to play with your mind and train with your mind. That's something that we haven't adapted quick enough here. The nature of cricket is that you learn from your mistakes but you just don't make that mistake once and that's the last time you do it, you make it over and over and over again. Eventually, through experience it sinks in. But the best seem to learn quicker than most. We've got a talented young group of batters and hopefully they can learn quickly."
However, not all the batsmen are inexperienced in these conditions. Michael Clarke has had great success in India in the past and is again thriving against their slow bowlers, but the other batsman who has played Test cricket in the country, Shane Watson, is yet to have an impact. Last time Watson played a Test in Mohali he scored 126, which remains his last Test hundred.
Watson made 84 and 60 in the tour match in Chennai but in the Tests has failed to build on his starts, scoring 28, 17, 23 and 9. He had looked good during the first innings in Hyderabad until he tried to pull a ball that did not bounce as high as he expected and was trapped lbw by Bhuvneshwar Kumar, and Di Venuto said it was a classic example of instinct batting.
"He looked unbelievable in the tour game and has looked terrific in his Test innings to date for starts," Di Venuto said. "That's the disappointing thing. The captain needs a bit of help and people to stand up. He looks in terrific touch but the runs just haven't happened.
"His first-innings dismissal [in Hyderabad] was an instinct shot. He pulls so well off length in Australia. The ball stayed down. But if he plays that with a straight bat then he's still in and you don't know where his innings could have gone. He's just got to keep working hard and has got to get better, it's as simple as that. The talent is there, the skills are there and he looks in good touch."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here