Our writers have provided incisive analysis over the years on what captains and players should do in various scenarios. But how will they fare when they have to make the decision themselves? In Hot Seat, we give a few of them a scenario and ask them what they would do as captain.
You are captaining the Test side assigned to you at the SCG on a traditional pitch with typical weather. On the first day, Steven Smith has walked out at 30 for 2 with the ball ten overs old. The opening bowlers have bowled five overs each and taken a wicket apiece. Pick the bowler to go first up at him and set the field.
Karthik Krishnaswamy: India: Jasprit Bumrah and Ravindra Jadeja
It's 30 for 2 in ten overs, so I'm assuming there's a bit in it for my fast bowlers on this pitch. Bumrah has never bowled to Smith in a Test match so far, so I'd keep him on for a couple more overs. I'd ask him to bowl a fourth/fifth-stump line with a regulation field (three slips, gully, backward point, mid-off, mid-on, midwicket, fine leg) and not get drawn into attacking those shuffling pads. Smith plays with a closed face, so the edges are likely to go wider, and I would adjust my cordon accordingly. From the other end, I'd bowl one more over of Ishant Sharma, and then bring on Ravindra Jadeja. Smith hasn't been genuinely troubled by any kind of bowler in the recent past, but his average against left-arm spin (39.20) and his scoring rate (2.69 per over) are his second worst against any type of bowling since the start of 2017 - he struggles most against left-arm quicks, but my India attack, sadly, does not have one. Jadeja has also done well against Smith overall: 474 balls, 151 runs, four dismissals, average of 37.75.
England: Andrew Miller: Jimmy Anderson
Tempting though it might be to fling the ball to Jofra Archer and tell him to slip the handbrake, I would trust James Anderson to dislodge a man he has already claimed on six previous occasions in Tests. With the ball still new, I'd trust him to target the stumps and find swing from a full length, allied to that metronomic line that has been such a feature of his game since the 2010-11 Ashes. Three slips and a gully, in case Smith's hands get wafty early in his stay, and a leg gully for that sashay across the crease to flick the inswinger off his hips. And by sticking to Anderson at this stage, Archer will be all the more rested for when he does get the call.
Sidharth Monga: New Zealand: Trent Boult and Neil Wagner
I will have Neil Wagner replace Tim Southee from one end and have Trent Boult continue for two more overs. He is quite used to bowling long spells, and Smith doesn't like the ball coming back in - which Boult is good at. Wagner will mix seam-up and short balls. For him, I have two slips, a gully, a leg gully, a fine leg, and square leg just to the left of the umpire. If the ball is not moving for Wagner, I might even have a deep-square midwicket. For Boult, we move the leg gully to third slip. After the drinks break, if Smith is still there, I go to Colin de Grandhomme, who, by the way, has bowled 100 balls to Smith in Test cricket for just 19 runs and got him out once. Also, he will keep Southee and Boult fresh for a burst before lunch.
Firdose Moonda: South Africa: Kagiso Rabada
Rabada has bowled five overs already but there's reason enough to give him a sixth because these two have history. The cover region will be left vacant, with three slips and a gully in place and protection on the leg side. Though fired up, Rabada will be asked to bowl full and outside off, and not resort to a short-ball barrage. It worked in Perth in 2016. Will it work again here?
Alan Gardner: England: Jofra Archer
This strikes me as déjà vu from the England perspective. James Anderson and Stuart Broad, the new-ball warhorses, have nipped out one apiece, but Smith is the wicket I really want. Who else to turn to at this point than Jofra Chioke Archer? True, he is still to dismiss Smith in their encounters so far, though you'd be hard pushed to say Archer didn't come out on top during that unforgettable, sense-scrambling spell on debut at Lord's. And while the SCG track might sap some of his juice, a fresh Archer with a still-shiny ball should keep his three slips and gully interested (don't make the mistake of not trying to find Smith's outside edge early on). But there's a short leg in, too, for the throat ball that everyone knows is coming at some point; plus deep backward square lurking.
Andrew Fidel Fernando: Sri Lanka: Lahiru Kumara and Lasith Embuldeniya
Sri Lanka's Test attack is not currently well placed to do well in Australia, where there is typically little movement or turn off the surface on a first day (even at the SCG), so I'm going for a high-risk, hyper-attacking strategy with two young bowlers. As soon as Smith arrives, I'd bring on Kumara, a right-arm quick who can touch 150kph on a good day, and have him bowl short at Smith with the leg-side stacked - a short leg (maybe slightly in front of square), fine leg, and perhaps even a leg slip or a backward square leg are in place. At the very least, this would prevent Smith from getting those productive drives going early. From the other end, provided neither of the opening bowlers is bowling an especially hot spell, I'd have Embuldeniya and set a tight field, with a slip and short leg as the only catchers to start with. If Smith has a weakness (he doesn't!), it's against left-arm spin. And Embuldeniya is one of those spinners who has so far seemed capable of being effective even on surfaces that haven't started to turn yet.
Sharda Ugra: India: Umesh Yadav
The choice comes down to either keeping the opening bowlers on or going first change. The ball is new, the wicket is as fresh as it's going to be, so you ignore the left-arm leggie trying to get your attention. First change Yadav it will be, new and improved in the five years since he last bowled at Smith in Australia. It is the perfect time for him to use his considerable shoulder, bowl a heavy ball, and zip it through. The field is 7-2 with catchers on the off side behind and in front of the wicket: three slips, gully, point, cover, and mid-off. The idea is to not be wheeling in the inswingers and giving Smith anything on his pads. Stay in the channel outside off, bowl full, and invite the big drive on the up.
Nagraj Gollapudi: West Indies: Kemar Roach
In the middle of the night, Smith shadow-bats and visualises key contests. So we know Kemar Roach, West Indies' best modern-day fast bowler, will be on his mind. Smith will be expecting Roach to test his patience with an off-stump line and will have decided to leave the ball if it is even marginally outside off. Luckily, Roach knows the plan. Two slips, a wide short gully, point, third man, leg slip, and a short midwicket are in place. The new Kookaburra is swinging, so Roach will keep Smith hungry by pitching short of a length and moving the ball away wide of off stump. Then, he will surprise Smith with a skiddy delivery that attacks the top of his bat and doesn't let him leave the ball.
If you think you have an answer that's better than our writers', or have a scenario in mind you'd like to hear our writers' takes on, send them in to email@example.com and we will feature the best entries in Hot Seat.
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