January 1, 2012

The quicks are back

Come Sydney, Australia's batsmen can be relaxed and bat better, knowing they don't need a mountain of runs to topple India. Their fast bowlers will do it

The SCG provides Australia with an opportunity to build on their rousing victory over India and continue what is a pace bowling led recovery. The consistently penetrating form of Australia's aggressive young pace bowler James Pattinson, combined with Peter Siddle's rejuvenation and Ben Hilfenhaus' successful return to the international arena is incentive for the beleaguered batsmen to make a New Year's resolution. Knowing now that a score of around 350, rather than a huge total, could be enough to set up a win at the SCG might just be the tonic that prompts the batsmen to resolve to do better in 2012.

With skill as a given, being relaxed is probably second only to confidence in an international batsman's armoury. Anything that helps to relieve tension, especially among inexperienced players, is a step in the right direction. There are also positive signs that Ricky Ponting is playing with more assurance, and while he'll never again be the consistently dominant batsman of the past, he's still productive. As long as there's no young batsman producing scores that demand selection, Ponting can continue to provide value to the team.

Michael Hussey is in the same boat. On the occasions when he stops thinking about playing carefully to prolong his career and just bats naturally, he's still a productive player. However, it's the less experienced batsmen who can benefit most from Australia's pace bowling resurgence. Armed with the knowledge that India's much-vaunted batting line-up can be held in check, they now know that consistency is what's required to complete a winning formula. This knowledge should relax them so they stop pressing and just play naturally without fear of reprisal.

There were signs that the Australian pace bowlers' success against the talented Indian line-up might be more than a one-off triumph. Gautam Gambhir is in trouble since he is discomforted by the extra bounce. If he continues to poke suspiciously at deliveries outside off stump, like a nervous mouse nibbling at the cheese, the Australians will have no trouble springing the trap.

Stopping Virender Sehwag is an important part of restricting India's scoring. The length the Australians are currently bowling is the most testing for the belligerent opener. He loves it short outside off stump, but the Australians, operating on a fuller length, are more likely to exploit his lack of feet movement. Keep Sehwag quiet and you reduce the Indian line-up's effectiveness by about half.

The player the Australians haven't yet found an answer for is Sachin Tendulkar. He looked in top form, and with the SCG being his favourite venue in Australia, they'll need to find a solution quickly. If Australia can shut down both Sehwag and Tendulkar, India could well be propelled on a downhill slide similar to their recent precipitous one in England, which ended in a 4-0 thrashing.

It's no good having a penetrative pace attack led by a tentative captain. Michael Clarke is anything but, and he has shown himself to be a pro-active skipper. He has a good gut feel for bowling changes, and he wasn't cowered into conservatism when Sehwag was firing in the first innings. Clarke just needs to tighten his own batting defences so the opposition doesn't put the skids under his impressive captaincy by making him struggle for runs.

MS Dhoni, on the other hand, set the tone for India's slide to oblivion on the final day at the MCG. He was extremely conservative when the situation cried out for him to attack in order to claim the final two wickets cheaply. Afterwards he lamented India's inability to rid themselves of the Australian tail-end batsmen in both innings. He only needs to pay attention when shaving before the SCG Test to find the solution to that problem.

If the Australian batsmen do provide better support for the fast bowlers at the SCG, the team can halt its current boom-bust cycle. However, in the event of much revelry in the Australian camp over an improved batting performance it shouldn't be forgotten that it has been a fast bowling-led recovery.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator and columnist

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Jay on January 3, 2012, 17:59 GMT

    Ian - Quicks only? Not so fast. Did you forget Yogi Berra's famous words "It ain't over till it's over"? Ian's morbid logic of "use-by-dates" in writing premature obituaries of "ageing" cricketers is proved wrong again. Yes, Ponting & Hussey are "still productive" - what an under-statement, Mr Retirement Counselor! Yes, Tendulkar is in "top form" and Australia "needs to find a solution quickly" - what a revelation, Mr Snow White! Ian's brilliant discovery of "consistency ... a winning formula" in face of Australia's "current boom-bust cycle" is yet another of his (ever-consistent) contradictory pronouncements. From calling Dhoni among the "great modern captains" to leading India's "slide to oblivion"! From Snow White & fancy mirrors to Pollyanna & illusory optimism! Ian, just call your baseball guru Yogi for a quick check-up: Is this your big 60-second cricket "Ball Drop" for 2012?

  • Dummy4 on January 3, 2012, 3:25 GMT

    and they have done exactly that well said ian chappel.

  • Dummy4 on January 2, 2012, 16:18 GMT

    Ah the trolls are back...thankfully, they were all absent right after the first Test was lost. First read what he said before you start with the hating. He says that the Aussie batsmen knowing that their bowling line up can be competitive know that they dont need to score 600+ to compete against India. Before the series started, with a raw bowling lineup for Oz and an injury free batting lineup for India, the Oz batsmen would have been worried about how much they need to score to compensate for their bowling gaps. That was probably one of the reasons for India's batting lineup failing so often in England. All Ian is saying is that going forward in the series the Oz batters can hope to compete on an even level.

  • Umar on January 2, 2012, 15:23 GMT

    Things are not that easy as Chappell has assumed. It will be a tougher 3 tests for Australia but they should win the series.

  • Dummy4 on January 2, 2012, 13:26 GMT

    gambhir will make a stunning comeback ian chappel inspired him in WC and will again do and even india will make a majestic comeback

  • Wally on January 2, 2012, 11:39 GMT

    The Oz media are as consistent as the Oz team. Heroes or zeros depending on the outcome of one test match. I think Oz should be concerned by the quality of the Indian attack that performed really well in Melbourne. The Indian batting is great on paper.... and if they get it together in Sydney then India must have a real chance in the test and the series. The media are raving about the Oz attack, and the selectors overlooked the prove class of Harris -- showing confidence in two rookies and two established players in Siddle and Hilfy - both of whom bowled well at the MCG but who were fodder for Cook, Bell, Trott etc last year.

    Ponting "productive"? He is the most productive batsmen this summer, and in the history of Oz cricket. He could bat with a blindfold on and still be more "productive" than Ian Chappell ever was.

  • raj on January 2, 2012, 11:34 GMT

    @Alex400 .. from when asking a review with Third Umpire has become a tactic in test history ?

  • Dummy4 on January 2, 2012, 10:16 GMT

    @dsig3 - agree 100%!!!!!!!!!!

  • Krishnam Raju on January 2, 2012, 8:40 GMT

    We all know Indian team is a poor starter of any test series, it could be because of complacence, it could be because of lack of seriousness, because they under perform in the first tests of a series in their home grounds too. But they do come back and come back well. Seriously, looking forward to the Sydney test as Indians have a good record at that ground. Dravid, Laxman and Tendulkar have their own reasons to score runs in & against Australia particularly. Sehwag will be changing his game plan too. Gambhir and Virat should be replaced though. Good Luck team India !!!!!! .... and A Happy New Year to Everybody here, Cheers :).

  • Aidan on January 2, 2012, 8:22 GMT

    Well it seems closer to Aus of old - the bowlers have arranged their plans pre match - know their roles. They don't seem to be working out tactics during the match - completely unaware how to get a guy out. Clarke doesn't waist time with mid over all the new bowling spell conferences - just occasionally takes time out to make field placements. It is better viewing and the Aus team look a lot more organised, decisive and purposeful in what they are doing. This has been true since SL - which is the encouraging thing - it seems a good culture is emerging. The team looks more potent and more likely to take 20 wickets which past few yrs has not been the case.

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