India v Australia, 1st Test, Chennai

We'll play spin aggressively - Arthur

Brydon Coverdale

February 19, 2013

Comments: 46 | Text size: A | A

Pragyan Ojha and R Ashwin shared 18 wickets between them, India v New Zealand, 1st Test, Hyderabad, 4th day, August 26, 2012
R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha weren't at their best against England, and the Australians intend to attack them © Associated Press
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Players/Officials: Mickey Arthur
Series/Tournaments: Australia tour of India
Teams: Australia

Australia's batsmen hope they can exploit the growing pressure on India's spin bowlers when the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series begins in Chennai on Friday. Traditionally, handling quality spin on turning pitches has been viewed as one of the key weaknesses of Australian batsmen and they could face a spin-heavy attack at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, with R Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha, Harbhajan Singh and the allrounder Ravindra Jadeja all having been named in India's squad.

But the Indian slow men were outbowled by their England counterparts during the Test series late last year, when Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar averaged 24.75 and 26.82 respectively. Ojha was the best of India's spinners in that series with 20 wickets at 30.85, but Ashwin struggled to have any real impact and collected 14 victims at 52.64, while none of Jadeja, Harbhajan or Piyush Chawla were able to hold down a place.

It is that uncertainty that Australia's coach Mickey Arthur hopes his men can use to their advantage when the Test series starts, despite the fact that the India A spinners Jalaj Saxena and Rakesh Dhurv took nine wickets between them in the second warm-up game and forced the Australians to follow on. Arthur said there had been some positive signs from Australia's batsmen, particularly in the way some of them attacked the spinners.

"There's no point in us defending, we have to be showing intent because if we can show intent and put them under pressure I think we could open some chinks in their armour, because the Indian spinners have been under pressure," Arthur said in Chennai. "They didn't win the series against England so the Indian spinners are coming into this series with the weight of expectation on their shoulders. If we get on top of them at any phase of the game, they will be feeling the heat as much as our batsmen are. That's got to be a very firm plan in our mind."

As senior batsmen with Test experience in India, Shane Watson and Michael Clarke will be important in enforcing that aggressive plan. But Arthur said he had also been impressed by the allrounder Moises Henriques, who has a good chance of making his Test debut in Chennai, after he struck two fours and three sixes in an innings of 33 from 41 against India A on Monday.

"If you're going to just defend and not take the game on you're going to get into a rut and you're going to get out sooner or later," Arthur said. "We certainly want them to play with that aggressive intent and he did that."

Following India's 2-1 loss at home to England, it is not only the spinners who will be under pressure to lift their game. There is growing concern within India about Sachin Tendulkar's ongoing lack of runs. In his past 13 Test innings Tendulkar has managed only one half-century, and his last Test hundred came in Cape Town in January 2011. His last Test century at home was during Australia's most recent tour in 2010, but he battled against Michael Clarke's men in Australia last summer.

"We bowled well against him and we will continue to bowl well against him," Arthur said. "It's not a cliche but if we can put their batters under pressure, if we can stop them scoring, we will create opportunities to take wickets and whether that's Sachin or Sehwag, that has to be our primary focus ... He is a class act still, he has a massive aura about him."

But despite Arthur's optimism in some areas, he conceded it would be a monumental task for a developing Australian outfit without Michael Hussey and Ricky Ponting to beat India at home. As the coach of South Africa, Arthur oversaw a 1-1 drawn series in 2008 and he said his past experience in India had taught him that it was a place where Test matches could turn rapidly.

"What I do know is that you put India under pressure here, it's as immense as Australia in our home season or England in their home season," Arthur said. "The scrutiny on them is incredible. If we can do that consistently, we can get some really good positive results. You can never relax, because the game appears to be meandering along and within an hour it can change on its head. So if you don't concentrate for the full five days you could get caught short somewhere.

"It's going to be incredibly tough and we know that. History tells you that it's very tough to come here and win. Not many sides do that. We've certainly come with a winning mindset. We're certainly not contemplating anything other than a series win, which I think will take this team hopefully to another level."

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

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Posted by SivaSurapaneni on (February 21, 2013, 2:04 GMT)

The pre-match antic talk is normally done by Australian captains or by one of the players. But, this time Arthur took over.

Posted by dunger.bob on (February 21, 2013, 1:27 GMT)

Re the "we'll play aggressively against the spinners" tactic. . I'm pretty sure he's NOT saying the batsmen are going to be running down the pitch trying to knock every second ball into next week. .. that would be stupid. He's talking about controlled aggression. Things like rotating the strike regularly, taking your singles, putting pressure on the fielders by turning 1's into 2's and just being generally positive. That's the sort of thing that frustrates a bowler. .. any bowler would much rather bowl to someone who has a purely defensive approach. It's just a matter of time if the batsman isn't looking to score, but if he gets off strike every few balls the bowler starts to feel a bit put upon. .... re the "Clarke bats at 5, so he must be a coward" thing. .. what's the go with that. I just can't get my head around that one. Don't people realise that upper and middle order players require different skill sets. Clarke is a natural born middle order man if ever I've seen one.

Posted by dunger.bob on (February 21, 2013, 0:41 GMT)

Wise words from the coach. I agree with pretty much every word. . It is going to be a very, very difficult series for us. The fast bowlers are going to have to work harder than they ever had but even more than that they are going to have to keep their discipline 100% of the time. .. the ball won't bounce so length is going to be crucial. I worry about Pattinson. If he breaks down in the middle of this Test we are sunk . . The batting is interesting. Not using 6 batsmen !! To me it seems as though they are counting on decent runs from the bowlers and are hoping to make each innings a genuine team effort. For example, if each wicket ave's 30, the team makes 350 or so. If 1 bat makes 90, there is room for 2 ducks & still maintain the 30 ave. .. .. I've seen a lot of posts saying "That's not what England did, so it won't work" .. Maybe so, but most Aussies would rather crash and burn then do anything the way England did it !! .. We are Australia. We do things our way.

Posted by Beertjie on (February 20, 2013, 18:01 GMT)

Agree entirely @Apocalypse_EX on (February 19, 2013, 15:37 GMT)! Excellent comment. Spot on there, @Guru Prasadh on (February 20, 2013, 10:29 GMT). Can Patto and Siddle reverse swing early enough. If not, they will be murdered and we'll be done even if we win the toss. Too little experience in these pressure conditions may do for us, e.g., Cowan, Hughes, Wade, Henriques. It'll only get tougher so if we don't make it count big the first time at bat...

Posted by   on (February 20, 2013, 12:06 GMT)

England batted time. If Australia go out and attack the spinners without trying to occupy the crease they will be destroyed

Posted by   on (February 20, 2013, 10:29 GMT)

Overall the tour's balance is going to be decided by how well Aussies bat. If they bat well the chances are that their bowlers can have a true impact as all of them understand the nuances of reverse swing. It is not going be easy starting the series at Chennai because traditionally touring sides have struggled here due to the slow nature of the wicket and this in many sense is truly subcontinental. So if Oz can handle the spin well then they stand with a chance of inducing shiver in the opposite camp. In 2003/04 tour it was McGrath and Gillespie who undid Indians and Anderson had a severe impact as well recently. So if Aussie handle the pressure of turning ball the fast bowlers can make a difference. The result of the first test can set the tone for the series indeed. If Oz batsman stands up to the challenge, we are in for a riveting series indeed.

Posted by   on (February 20, 2013, 9:42 GMT)

We say that against every spin dominated country and it always backfires... If we go in with 4 quicks they will be doing a LOT of work and i expect 2 or 3 to pull up sore for the 2nd test.

Posted by   on (February 20, 2013, 7:23 GMT)

the indian wickets are usually flat on day one. if oz can win the first test toss and bat, it will allow their aggressive batters a chance to go one up vs the indian spinners and boost confidence for the rest of the series. Tipping mitch starc, watto and Moises to have a good series. as far as Dhoni vs Clarkeyis concerned, its a no brainer....

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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