Adam Voges: 'Not the one that spins and beats your outside edge that is the dangerous one'

He reflects on how things went wrong for him in 2016 and the challenges in the conditions

Alex Malcolm
Stick to your plans. That will be the message to Australia's batters as they head to Sri Lanka for their biggest batting examination in three years of Test cricket.
Pakistan did not quite throw up the batting challenges against spin that were anticipated in March, particularly in the first two Tests, where Australia secured a 1-0 win led with the bat by the prolific Usman Khawaja. However, not every Australian batter prospered, with some losing the patience battle in conditions that demanded diligence and discipline more so than technical prowess against spin.
Sri Lanka will pose a different challenge, with two Tests in Galle on what are likely to be big turners from early in the game.
Former Australia batter and current Western Australian coach Adam Voges found out how challenging Sri Lanka can be both technically and mentally on Australia's disastrous tour in 2016.
Voges went to Sri Lanka as Australia's oldest player at 35 and was averaging 95.50 after his first 15 Tests, including five centuries and two doubles. He also went as one of Australia's best players of spin. But he averaged just 19.66 for the series in three Tests, falling to spin five times including four times to the left-arm orthodox of Rangana Herath, who took 28 wickets at 12.75 for the series to dismantle Australia in a 3-0 Sri Lankan sweep.
Voges regrets abandoning his plans to use his sweep shot following the tour game prior to the Test series.
"I'd do a few things differently," Voges told ESPNcricinfo. "It was a disappointing tour from a team point of view, but certainly from my point of view, it certainly wasn't the tour that I wanted to have.
"I had a very clear plan on how I wanted to play over in Sri Lanka going into that series and worked a lot on my sweep shot, knowing that we were going to face a lot of spin in those conditions. The disappointing thing on reflection was that I went away from those plans.
"I got out sweeping in our practice game and sort of put the conventional sweep shot away during the Test series and it probably really limited what I was able to do from a scoring and rotation of strike point of view.
"If I had my time again, I would have stuck to my guns and backed my plan in and who knows, it may not have made any difference to what I was able to produce, but I would have been a lot more comfortable knowing that I'd stuck with something that I'd worked so hard on in the lead-up to that series."
None of Australia's Test batters will have had any red-ball cricket heading into the first Test starting on Wednesday. David Warner, Marnus Labuschagne, Steven Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green and Alex Carey have all played in the ODI series, as has Glenn Maxwell, who has also been drafted into the Test squad as cover for Head after his hamstring injury.
Maxwell has not played a first-class match with a red ball since 2019. Khawaja has played no cricket at all since his phenomenal performance in Pakistan, having spent a couple of months at home with his family in the lead-up to this series.
Voges stressed the importance of Australia's batters having a clear plan going into the two-Test series and backing those plans under pressure.
"You've got to be fast on your feet and you've got to be able to create length, either full or short to provide scoring options. I think that's the absolute key," Voges said. "It's generally not the one that spins and beats your outside edge that is the dangerous one. It's the one that goes straight on the next ball and being able to understand that you definitely have to cover that one and being okay with playing and missing at the odd one that spins past you.
"But then if you are going to use your feet and come out of your crease, committing to making sure you're getting as close to the ball as you possibly can. All easy when you're sitting down talking about it. It's being able to go out there and execute it under pressure."
Voges spent some time with Green in Perth in the lead-up to his departure for the ODI series, although preparations were a mixture of white-ball and red-ball, and a lot of it was done indoors using spin mats because of the winter weather in WA in early June.
Green employed the sweep shot during the ODI series far more than he ever has previously, but Voges believes he does not need it as much as others because of his size.
"Greeny is different," Voges said. "He's so big. He's got such a big reach and so it's a little bit different for him. His forward defence and his drives are probably further down the wicket than what shorter players are. So I think that gives him an advantage.
"Again, him working out how he wants to go about it, making sure that he's really strong in his defence and he's trusting his defence, but being clear about how he's going to look to score as well.
"Ultimately, a lot of the prep work I think gets done over in those conditions. And I think that's where you truly start to adapt to what you're going to be playing on."
Khawaja is heading to Sri Lanka for the third time, having played two Tests in 2011 and two more on the 2016 tour. He has scored a total of 115 runs in seven innings in Sri Lanka, with a highest score of 26. But like Voges, he learned some valuable lessons.
"I just have a lot more shots now to spin than I did back then," Khawaja said. "I use my crease better. I score in different parts of the ground. It's just about trying to make the best decisions now.
"I felt like I was a very good player of spinners in 2015 back in Australia. But overseas I still struggled, I just didn't have enough options.
"In Australia, you are taught to go forward, forward, forward. I had to learn how to play off the back foot. So now I can play off the front and back."

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo