India's batting coach Sanjay Bangar has said that increased batting practice for the side's lower-order batsmen has led to greater contributions from them.
Under Virat Kohli's captaincy, India have largely opted for a five-bowler strategy, and the lower order has taken some of the pressure off the frontline batsmen with their knocks, which have sometimes turned matches for the side.
In the recent five-match Test series against England, which India won 4-0, the performances of the hosts' lower order was a significant difference between the two sides. R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Jayant Yadav played important knocks in Mohali, Mumbai and Chennai. Led by these three players, India's last four wickets averaged 48.23 runs per completed partnership, while England's average was less than half that value. Overall, in 2016, India's batsmen at these positions scored 1321 runs in 12 matches - second only to England's 2334 in 17 matches - and their average of 40.03 was the highest in Tests.
"I believe the only way to polish your skills is to train in a correct manner with a lot of quantity and a clear plan," Bangar told Mumbai Mirror. "Your body must get into right positions such that you are able to execute all the shots you want to. From that perspective, we ensured that our lower order got the same amount of batting practice as our frontline batsmen."
Ashwin, who recently was named the ICC Cricketer of the Year and Test Cricketer of the Year, has been one of the big contributors in the lower order, often slotting in at Nos. 6 and 7. In 2016, he scored 612 runs at an average of 43.71 with two key centuries in the West Indies and four fifties to go with a haul of 72 wickets. Bangar said Ashwin was a "clever cricketer, always eager to better his technique".
"He has a cool head, his technique is superb, and he allows the ball to come to him," Bangar said. "And you can't tie Ashwin down. He has the cut, he will drive you down the wicket, and even against spinners, he's a very busy player. Credit to Virat [Kohli] and the team management for putting him at No.6. With his experience, he could control the innings there considering Wriddhiman Saha was relatively new, just settling in Tests."