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News

Jadeja and Axar: Sweep and reverse sweep are difficult here

Axar avoided it while making 74 crucial runs for India; Jadeja benefited from Australia's overuse of it to finish with a match haul of ten wickets

Australia's collapse - precipitated by an overuse of the sweep shot - and India's subsequent romp to victory in the Delhi Test has raised a lot of questions about shot selection on spin-friendly pitches.
Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel, India's two left-arm spin-bowling allrounders, said the sweep was the wrong option on pitches with low bounce and that the better strategy was to play with a straight bat in front of the pad as often as possible.
Both men used that philosophy to help India get to within one run of Australia's first-innings of 263 on the second day's play. Jadeja scored 26, Axar top-scored with 74, and then when it looked like India were on the back foot at the start of the third day, Jadeja ran through the Australian batting order to finish with career-best bowling figures of 7 for 42.
"Sweep and reverse sweep are difficult here, so I didn't try them (laughs)," Axar - who hit nine fours and three sixes in his innings - told Jadeja in a chat for the BCCI website. "Instead I bring the bat in front of the pad and play the ball on its merit."
"The last time I batted with you [Jadeja], you had told me that they were trying to aim at my pads, so I was protecting it. My thought was to hit what's in the slot and respect the good deliveries. That is what I do. This time there was a left-arm spinner [Matthew Kuhnemann] too. " Jadeja interjected at that point with a good-natured, "and you robbed him for runs." Axar just laughed and continued. "No I didn't rob him, but with a left-arm spinner operating instead of an offspinner, you get to play at a delivery turning into you."
Jadeja's innings of 26 might not look like much but in partnership with Virat Kohli, who scored 44, they produced some of the best batting of the Test match and it was all based on being prepared for the grubber.
"On this pitch, the mindset [with the bat] was that a good ball can come anytime," Jadeja said. "However the idea was to believe in the defense and play with the bat in front of the pad. Me and Virat were talking about playing straight as much as possible with less bounce on offer."
Then when he had the ball in hand, and saw Australia trying to sweep everything away, he knew all he had to do was bowl straight at the stumps.
"In India, if the wickets are like this, then it feels good that a spinner's role and responsibility increases. The way they were batting, they preferred the sweep and reverse sweep, so I wanted to bowl stump to stump. That would mean if they missed and the ball stayed low then it would hit the stumps."
Jadeja's seven wickets included five bowleds. Australia collapsed from 65 for 1 to 113 all out. And India cruised to a six-wicket victory before tea on day three.
Jadeja, who has returned to the international fold for the first series since his knee injury last August that had needed surgical intervention, said that all three spinners in the XI have been contributing, be it big or small.
"I missed a lot of cricket...the World Cup, and many other series, but once I'm back, I want to continue this way in the future, and make team India win with you [Axar] and Ashwin. This is a team game and everyone has contributed in different ways. If this happens, India's victory march will only continue."
India play the third Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, which they have now retained having gone 2-0 ahead, on March 1. They are also in pole position for a spot in the World Test Championship final later in June.