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February 17, 2013
Manoj Tiwary sounded the first unofficial salvo of an otherwise far 'kinder, gentler' run-up to an India-Australia series in a long time when he said that a good number of Australian batsmen had been "wanting" in their technique against the India A spinners on day two of their three-day practice match at the ICL Guru Nanak College Ground in Chennai.
Tiwary, a free-spirited batsman, became the second centurion in the India A innings, scoring 129 as his team was all out for 451 just before tea on a rain-affected day. After the day's play, with Australia scoring 131 for 4 and losing all four batsmen to the spinners Rakesh Dhurv and Jalaj Saxena, Tiwary didn't hold back, either on opinion or prediction.
"They haven't played the spinners as well as they could have - because I think the technique was [found] wanting," he said. Australia were tootling along at a good clip against the four India A medium pacers before spin was introduced in the 21st over. Left-arm spinner Dhurv had Ed Cowan leg before in the 23rd over and Australia lost three more wickets before stumps. Off-spinner Saxena had Phil Hughes stumped and Usman Khawaja bowled, both scoring 1. Of all the batsmen, it was only Shane Watson who looked completely in control.
Tiwary said of the bulk of the Australian top order, "They were not sure of their defence to be honest. That's why they were not stretching enough to play the spin and not going back enough to play their shots." Australia are without captain Michael Clarke and opener David Warner and Tiwary was not without his assessment. "If this is the way they are going to bat, it's going to be difficult for them to be honest… to face quality spinners like Bhajjupa (Harbhajan Singh) and Ashwin and Ojha. The way they are bowling, it will be very difficult for them."
Should the wicket in Chepauk, where the first Test begins on February 22, be like what it was at the Guru Nanak College ground - slow, low, with very little pace and minor turn - Tiwary predicted more worries for "all their bowlers."
Watson though said there was, "absolutely no doubt about what India is going to hit us with." The start of the tour, he said, was proving to be a "big learning curve for a lot of the guys" and that the best approach to playing spin in India had to be "proactive." Spinners he said must "certainly" be attacked. "You can't just allow them to settle in a certain line and length and allow them to be able to bowl that ball over and over again. At some stage that ball is going to turn and bounce and do something. As individual batsmen, we have to find a game plan to have as much success as we can."
Australia's lesser-experienced batsmen, he said, were however, "very talented guys."
"They have scored a lot of first-class runs in different conditions and it won't take a very long time to find a game plan and a technique that will work here."
Lost in the assessment of Australia's response to the two rather unheralded Indian spinners was Tiwary's own performance; every time he has been given an opportunity against touring sides, he has scored runs this season, getting 93 against England A before his century in Chennai. "I came out to play this match, not to impress anyone but just to make myself happy after scoring runs. I was very conscious about getting big runs here to prove myself that I can score runs against quality opposition as well," he said.
One of the shadow men for spots in the Indian Test middle order, Tiwary more talked about for his one-day game said, "My dream has always been to play Test cricket. It depends on the selectors what they think about me and whether they can show some faith in me. My job was to score runs and I will do that as long as I play first-class cricket and four-day cricket."
The push for an India spot, he said, demanded a high degree of determination because of the competition. "You know the competition is so high you can't miss out in an innings because you will go back few months of selection." When asked whether he considered his game good enough to handle fast bowling adequately, he said that he was not concerned what his game "looked" like. "What I can do is I can score runs and if you can only look ugly and score runs, I will still go for runs. It doesn't matter if I look odd or ugly in facing quick bowlers. I know my game and I know how to score runs. That's how I have been able to score more than 5000 runs in seven or eight years of first-class cricket."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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