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....

Posted by Rahul_78 on (February 20, 2013, 5:41 GMT)

Oz trying to take a leaf out of Poms book might not be such a wise idea. If you look at India V Eng series the scoring rate was very low at many a times. It took freakish talent of KP to attack the spinners while Cook who was rock solid at other end to put on big scores on the board. The current OZ side do not have the quality of Hayden or Gilly to play attacking cricket on Indian dust bowls. Specially Harbhajan will enjoy the ultra aggressive approach from OZ in Indian conditions as he would like nothing more then OZ batsmen attacking him with sweep shots or using there feet to get out of the creeze. It will create wicket taking opportunities when the ball is turning and bouncing. It is all good planning in dressing room but you need to have resources with skill sets to execute it in the middle. In OZ''s case apart from Clarke others dont carry the world class tag and Hussey's retirement will hurt them big time in this series.

Posted by fastrack10 on (February 20, 2013, 5:00 GMT)

nothing wrong with the game plan..& its nothing new too, all touring teams come in & speak more or less on the same lines, so thats fine..but the issue is whether you have the required skills, confidence & experience to play the spinners aggressively-CONSISTANTLY..coz no point hitting them out of the park in an inng, & struggle in other inngs..thats the issue the aussie will face without the experience of Ponting & Hussey. i think aussie will struggle if they depend on Clark & Watson too much, all other batters have to put ther hands up & perform consistantly.

Posted by Biggus on (February 20, 2013, 4:12 GMT)

It most certainly will be an issue, how this fragile batting line-up of ours deals with the admittedly less than sensational Indian spinners. If they keep turning over the strike that at least will be a step in the right direction. This is almost certainly our weakest batting side in a generation, but as has been said, this Indian spin group isn't Bedi, Chandrasekhar, Prasanna and Venkat, a quartet I had the great privilege to see play. Now they were some GOOD spinners....

Posted by   on (February 20, 2013, 4:11 GMT)

In my opinion, India's batting is the key to them winning this series. Yes, the bowlers need to take 20 wickets, but better Australia teams have toured in the past against less capable Indian bowling line ups and still lost. In each of those series, India's batsmen posted imposing totals. On rank turners, India's spinners have a chance, but will need scoreboard pressure to really make it difficult for the Aussie batsman.

Posted by Aravind.Koushik on (February 20, 2013, 4:00 GMT)

I would like to see a nice farewell to the Little Master from the Australians. Don't think the Little Master will be playing a Test Series again in India (provided he takes a look about his past performances against NZL, WI)

MS Dhoni might become a better Test Captain once that Spot for Middle order batsman is open !

Posted by disco_bob on (February 20, 2013, 2:28 GMT)

don't forget when India selected four spinners it was the English quicks who dictated the terms.

Posted by Edwards_Anderson on (February 20, 2013, 1:23 GMT)

I predicted a couple of weeks back that we would play 3 quicks and took a bit of a hammering for it. It's very hard not to play your best bowlers regardless of the pitch.But maybe when they all take 1/100+ that plan will go out the window for the 2nd test. He's a good bowler and obviously conditions will suit. And I'd like to see more spin from Clarke, I think he underrates his own bowling at times, but will need to bowl a lot more in this series. And Warnre and Khawaja can bowl too but Khawaja who got Sangakara out can be more valuable then Quiuney was with the ball but first he needs to get a crack in the side which he isn't getting at present much to our loss. The little I've seen of Zampa I've been impressed with. I actually think Lyon will go well. Now we realise how much we took Warne for granted.

Posted by Meety on (February 20, 2013, 1:21 GMT)

@Apocalypse_EX on (February 19, 2013, 15:37 GMT) - I sort of agree, although Watto probably needs to be hitting boundaries as he is mediocre at running singles. Otherwise (hopefully) what Arthurs was mainly talking about is getting the singles. With Clarke I think he is extremely confident against spinners, last time in India he was too aggressive against them.

Posted by OneEyedAussie on (February 20, 2013, 0:39 GMT)

For Hughes, Watson and Cowan a big factor in their potential success will be learning to rotate the strike correctly. Sadly, I expect to see a few run outs (at least) of top order Australian batsmen this series in addition to the usual bogged-down Watson dismissals.

Posted by   on (February 20, 2013, 0:05 GMT)

I can almost see the outcome. Indian spinners will come out flat and totally ineffective. Shane Watson and Michael Clarke will probably get triple digit scores, and Indian batsmen will again fall to the pace and bounce of the Aussie bowlers. And Lyon will clean up Indian tail. It worked for England, so it will for Australia.

Posted by Shaggy076 on (February 19, 2013, 23:24 GMT)

All we have to do is show some intent and Dhoni as per usual will have 4 blokes on the fence. Opening up so many opportunities for singles. Are the Indian spinners as bad as there recent record, or is there record as it is due to a very defensive captain.

Posted by MinusZero on (February 19, 2013, 23:13 GMT)

I dont think people can say that India will succumb if Australia play well. Remember the series in 2003/04. India won 2-1 after heavily losing the first test and then followed on in the 2nd and came back to win and then won the 3rd test.

Posted by Bonehead_maz on (February 19, 2013, 21:42 GMT)

@Mr_Ronan @ Apocalypse_EX

Spot on !

I also think Arthur's talking about punishing anything loose. Try to create opportunity AND cash in when/if it comes.

A good plan. Question is whether the Australian batsmen are of a high enough quality to achieve it.

Posted by Mr_Ronan on (February 19, 2013, 19:38 GMT)

It's pretty simple guys, what Arthur is saying is that Australia must bat with purpose against the spinners rather than letting them dictate the terms. This is how all the best players of spin - Lara, Hussey, Hayden, Laxman etc - have gone about their business. In Indian conditions, you cannot allow a spinner to settle into a rhythm and consistently hit a similar spot on the pitch. You must play them positively - by coming down the wicket, sweeping, or using the full depth of the crease - in order to force them to chop and change their line and length. Lara was the master of this. He would charge Warne and hit him over the top, prompting the master spinner to drop the next ball slightly shorter in anticipation of another dance by the Prince. Lara would then rock back deep in the crease and smash it square.

Posted by bumsonseats on (February 19, 2013, 19:23 GMT)

jonesy2 you really need to get a grip i know you have problems with just above average stats these days of aussie players. were you used to have batters averaging 40/50+.now you are branding high 30s players as super stars, 2 X100s do not make you a world beater

Posted by PMadhavarao on (February 19, 2013, 18:37 GMT)

I don't care how Australia want to play the spinners. However, after the England series I lost faith in Indian spinners. variations might help Ashwin. but his variations have become predictable, unless he changes his strategy he is not going to get any better. Jadeja bowls good balls occassionally , he gives too much room for the batsmen to go back in the crease and hit as they like. I am hoping Bhajji comes back to form. Arthur has a point that Indina spinners are under pressure. Commentators like Gavaskar, Ravi, Akram provide great feedback on batsmen and bowlers and I feel like a lot can be learned from their commendatary durin the match, probably Indian players should replay and listen to their commentary to rectify their mistakes etc.,,

Posted by MadhavY on (February 19, 2013, 18:25 GMT)

playing spin aggressively might not really be a good idea, no one except for pieterson did that in Eng team. only someone like Warner, Clarke can do that in Aus team. Clare is a good player of spin, but i think that's also his weakness. he gets out stumped a lot and tries to be overly aggressive against spin sometimes.

Posted by   on (February 19, 2013, 18:15 GMT)

Austrailia will win easilyy,,,,,australia will score heavily

Posted by Jaissy on (February 19, 2013, 18:11 GMT)

mighty australians if you bat aggressive then its good for india.u will then not be able to middle the bowl and go out caught as there will be a lot of turn in chennai.remember england won bcoz they batted sensibly and patiently. In india on a rank turner pitches, there is 95% chance that there will be a win result for any of the team.so you have got ample of time to bat on by rotating the strike.

If aussie are to able survive on this pitch then i m sure they gonna win this series.good luck.

Posted by SevereCritic on (February 19, 2013, 18:01 GMT)

Going to be a very boring series. Neither team has the bowling to take 20 wickets a match consistently. So, it will depend on Batsmen to throw their wicket consistently to force results. Though with the likes of Sehwag, Kohli, Warner and Watto -- we already have 4 walking wickets. So 18 wickets per side. As Cook showed; all that it takes is one good batsman to grind it out to bury India in their own backyard. So, Clarke will have to do it for the Aussies.

Posted by cricketlover2 on (February 19, 2013, 16:33 GMT)

in response to wonderstar1 who clearly has not got a clue about cricket, finn and swann club bowlers never seen a club bowler bowl at 90 plus mph and swann is best spinner in world unlike average indian spinners such as ashwin or jadeja or ojha not test match bowlers typical india putting t20 bowlers nito test match team, aussies will stuff inida

Posted by   on (February 19, 2013, 16:17 GMT)

It is a Game of Psychology these Australians play well and Indians succumb to them, like these guys here talking about them ! Let The Tests begin and see what goes on!

Posted by   on (February 19, 2013, 16:17 GMT)

It is a Game of Psychology these Australians play well and Indians succumb to them, like these guys here talking about them ! Let The Tests begin and see what goes on!

Posted by wonderstar1 on (February 19, 2013, 15:28 GMT)

Regardless of how the aussies approach against spin, the main worry for India would be their batting. they make club level bowlers like swann and finn as great bowlers. If they can bat positive against australian bowlers they have a great chance.For gods sake this must be last series for dhoni and sehwag as we dont want to carry many passengers in the team.

Posted by   on (February 19, 2013, 14:57 GMT)

First tell aussie batsman to bat atleast normally against spin, then they can think of batting aggresively, there is no ricky or mike hussey to save you guys this time, Warner, watson and clarke, this is the 3 wickets, thats it, no need to worry of taking 10 wickets

Posted by SamRoy on (February 19, 2013, 14:54 GMT)

Even if Australia don't play all that well they can still win the series. Remember India is captained by MS Dhoni who is a pretty bad test captain (and outrageously defensive) and Australia is captained by Michael Clarke who is by far the best test captain going around. Also, India has Tendulkar and Sehwag who are finished as test cricketers.

Posted by jonesy2 on (February 19, 2013, 14:48 GMT)

very happy to hear him say this because they are my philosophies exactly. australia has the worlds best batsman and the worlds best player of spin so they need players to step up and bat around and him warner and watson can take a game away from india in 20 minutes. if englands batsmen can get runs against indias spinners then australias batsmen should be far more qualified to do so as obviously australia have far better batsmen and players of spin. england werent aggressive because they dont have the ability to be, australia do.

Posted by   on (February 19, 2013, 14:43 GMT)

It might not be the best advice to the Aussie batsmen.A spinner like Ashwin,who is not known to bowl consistently in one area,and has been regularly guilty of feeding loose deliveries trying to bowl variety rather than line and length,would be troubled more by a patient approach to batting.The batsmen need to understand their game and then decide.If they feel they can trust their defense and can hold their end,they would be doing themselves and their team a greater justice.But if the technique's wanting,then what choice do you have??Going downtown would be the only wise thing to do. For India's sake I hope Harbhajan finds some form,maybe turns things around both for himself and his team.He rose to fame against the Aussies,would be nice if he rises again in tests against the same opposition.

Posted by agarkarno1 on (February 19, 2013, 14:26 GMT)

I dont see Australia beating India in the coming series. They dont have quality spinners to take wickets. Their batting lack experience. And if they are planning to play aggressive against spin, its going to be for their own downfall. If thats going to be their plea, happy to wait and see a series victory after a long time for India.

Posted by Notout_Naveen on (February 19, 2013, 14:22 GMT)

Very optimistic thoughts from the coach..But to execute your plans in the field is altogether a different ball game and what matters the most..I don't see any player in this Australian line up can dominate the spinners like Hayden did before or for that matter any player who played in Steve's & Ponting's era.Watson has potential but he is not a long innings player..Warner will be tested.Micheal Clarke will be under pressure to carry this inexperience team & he seems to be happy playing at no.5 which is not a good sign.This Australian team reminds like the English team of yesteryear's.On the other hand I expect Indian young team to be more determined & hunger this time around after a great set back it got from England series.Of course, Indian spinners will be tested.I am expecting a 300 from Sachin Tendulkar in this series, of course it will be a huge ask..but Great players like him have the ability to compensate prolonged slump into a huge one..Lets w8 & watch..cheers!!!

Posted by bumsonseats on (February 19, 2013, 14:17 GMT)

it depends on the situation and the wicket. England did not play aggressively as a team in fact they took the opposite way in so far as the bad ball was hit. likes of KP really only knows how to play 1 way, and is not always fluent against spin. i guess all the Aussies are similar in they would rather play seam. the indians do not have a mystery spinner and don't have a spinner that gives it a big rip. if the Aussies were to loose say 3 early wicket and found themselves 40 for 3 down i would not fancy their chances

Posted by   on (February 19, 2013, 14:08 GMT)

yeah it is really stupid to say that u need to be aggressive against spin in India!! Both Cook and KP emphasised on the perfection of their defence when they crafted those huge innings at kolkata.......strange that this comes from a man as experienced as arthur!!!! the prey falls in the trap by itself! :) :)

Posted by   on (February 19, 2013, 14:01 GMT)

Batting:Almost everyone accepts that failure of some of our key batsmen was the major contributory factor to our losing the recent home series against England. The list of inconsistent batsmen, unfortunately, include ALL the main batsmen -- Veeru, Gauti, Sachin, Virat, Yuvi, & Dhoni. If top 6 batsmen let you down, what other result can you expect. I haven't seen anything new, since then, to re-assure myself that they have turned the corner.

Bowling: What is not widely recognized is the failure of some of the recent 'permanent ' fixtures in our bowling lie-up. The worst case is Ashwin. To paraphrase what Bedi told Rasool: If Ashwin bowls his basic deliveries well, he doesnt have to try all the 'fancy', but ineffective, variations. If he can't bowl to the field; if he can't stop bowling one or two bad delivery in every over; and if he can't avoid regularly bowling 'almost wide' outside the leg-stump; he is in the team only as a batsman. As a batsman, is he better than Tiwari?

Posted by GRVJPR on (February 19, 2013, 13:58 GMT)

@mzm149 They have always struggled against club level bowling of India winning only 1 series in last 50 years.

Posted by Deep_Biswas on (February 19, 2013, 13:55 GMT)

If they have made their mind to play spin aggressively, as an Indian fan, I will be delighted. Because you need patience and technique to play spin, at least in test matches. They way the English did just a couple months ago. I hope they learn from the English batsmen.

Posted by mzm149 on (February 19, 2013, 13:36 GMT)

Australia doesn't need to be worried by club level bowling attack of India. They have played quality spin bowling quite well in the past. They will definitely come victorious after this series.

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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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