Australian coach Andrew McDonald says his side will not abandon the sweep just yet as they look to find a more balanced approach to the third Test.
Australia concede they got it wrong in an hour of madness in the Delhi Test match, but warned against abandoning methods, including the sweep shot, that had got them into a position to win the game.
The visiting side lost six wickets to the shot and lost 8-28 on the third day, squandering what had been a strong position in the Test match.
Coach Andrew McDonald is under pressure from critics who slammed the teams approach.
“I think my feelings are pretty similar to how everyone else is thinking about it, the team was in a really strong position, we felt like were controlling the game over night with a 60 odd run lead and then to go out there and pretty much throw the game away in an hour is really disappointing,” he said.
“There’s going to be questions around some of our batters methods, there’s no doubt about that, we have got to find the balance between that aggressive play and also defence, and being able to rotate the strike.
“We felt like we had India in a really vulnerable position, it was the first time in the series we saw the fielders back and Ashwin having to control the tempo, usually it’s pretty much a ring field and hard to rotate the strike and felt like Marnus and Smudge had the game in their control at 2-85 looking to extend that lead.
“The rest was pretty plain to see, pretty poor.”
McDonald believes the batsmen perceived pressure in the chaos of the morning and went away from their plans.
“In the first game we were coming from a long way behind. It felt like at times we wanted to rush to a total,” he said.
“We were in a hurry to build that lead and as we know here it is attritional cricket, you can do that over time.
“Our methods are going to be critiqued and rightfully so. There were some people who went clearly away from the game plan that made them successful over a period of time and that’s for us to own as a collective.
“We’ve got to be better than that, that’s the bottom line, we’ve got to own it and we are not here to shy away from the fact that wasn’t good enough.”
McDonald said that batsmen had prospered playing sweep shots in the first innings and believes the fact they were in a strong position before panicking indicates the side is good enough to win in India.
The home side has been essentially unbeatable for a long time and lost just two of its past 45 Tests.
“Us (man) was sweeping first innings and gets applauded for it so there is a balance, he was outstanding sweeping and reverse sweeping,” McDonald said.
“Even Marn (us) day two put Jadeja under clear pressure with the sweep shot.
“We don’t want to go away from that, as part of that methods is finding that balance and you do need an element of good fortune on surfaces like that.
“There’s a lot of balls that spin past the outside edge and I thought the way that Travis Head applied himself and his dismissal, he easily could have played and missed or found the edge and goes down and then you get an opportunity to build your innings.
“There is an element of chance off the surface.
“Does every ball have someone’s name on it? No I don’t think so, there’s parts of the wicket that are very bearable for batting and we saw that.”
“I’m not sure how we clear their minds at this stage, the best way to clear the minds is get away from the game for a couple of days for those who have been fully invested in those two Test matches. Other players will have different programs and then we come back together again and build toward the next Test match.
“Let’s not veer away from the fact we were in a strong position as well, so are we good enough? I think the answer to that is yes if we apply our best. Unfortunately for one hour of the game we at our best and you can lose it that quickly over here.
McDonald pushed back against criticism of the side for not playing a tour match.
“I still wouldn’t have changed what we did leading in, there’s no doubt about that. I think they had really good preparation in Bangalore,” he said. “So that’s not any excuses.
“We sit here right now, I think at the end of day two, if you said our preparation was good, you’d probably have a different slant on it, but within an hour then people start to critique what happened in the past.”
THE SHOT THAT CAUSED THE CRAZIEST COLLAPSE OF THE 21ST CENTURY
There’s a reason why many of India’s leading batsmen don’t bother with the sweep shot … they reckon it tastes like honey but drips with poison.
Clever though it looks, disruptive though it can be, they will tell you it generates more problems than it’s worth and if you question them further they explain it is a simple matter of geometry.
If a deck is playing up and down (like Delhi) you can take variable bounce out of play with a vertical bat but if the bounce varies and you use a cross bat such as the sweep you tend to miss the ball.
Then guess what? You’re dead.
Sounds simple but somehow Australia missed the memo.
A quarter of Australia’s wickets in this series have fallen to the sweep, the shot which produced the craziest Australian collapse this century as batsmen lost their collective nerve, swung wildly and left with faces redder than your standard tandoori chicken.
What a shambles.
Last week Australia had the Nightmare of Nagpur. This time it’s the Delhi Debacle. Don’t be fooled by the seemingly comfortable six wicket margin of India’s win. Australia only had to bat for another 45 minutes and it was game on. What a waste of a solid position.
A sift through the debris notices some significant threads such as …
THE FLAWED PLAN
Australia went into their shells in Nagpur and promised it would be different this time. Each man would have a plan and stick to it.
Therein lies the problem. A lack of adaptability. The problem was most of those plans involved sweeping and the shot wasn’t on but they proceeded regardless.
Last week they were incredibly timid and were shot down playing defensively. This time they played like millionaires with 20 cents in the bank.
First gear didn’t work last week. Fourth gear didn’t work this time. If Australia want a role model for how to bat in India they should look at the video of Indian all-rounder Axar Patel, a thorn in their sides in both Tests.
Any ball which had any semblance of danger to it was defended by Patel with great poise and precision off both feet. But anything loose was dispatched with ruthless power. There was nothing premeditated about Patel.
Allan Border was furious at the Australians for their woeful game management and his words on Fox Cricket came from high ground.
Even when he batted in the nets Border would look at the wicket and work out what shots were appropriate and which ones must be left in his kit bag. The wicket told him how to bat.
The thought of premeditating shots like Alex Carey did with his airy reverse sweep, Matt Renshaw did with five sweeps in his first eight balls or Pat Cummins did with a wild air swing first ball that triggered his dismissal, understandably left Border “angry.’’
Border used to absorb the conditions and their challenges and adjust his game accordingly it was one of the reasons why he remains one of the few champion batsmen who averaged more overseas than he did at home.
This team needs more Border style grit to remind them that – boring though it sounds – the single most important shot in Test cricket is the forward defence.
Credit where it is due. Taking on Indian spinners Ravi Ashwin and Ravi Jadeja on a turning deck is cricket’s equivalent of taking on Rafael Nadal on clay.
They probe, they drift, they spin some … others go straight. Together they deliver one of the great one, two punches in cricket history.
They are as tireless and they are taunting. They work together. They swap ideas. They are a key reason why India have lost just two of their last 43 home Tests.
It’s an astonishing statistic and here’s the chastening truth … they are actually improving by the year.
DELHI DISASTER AMONG ‘LOWEST DAYS IN MODERN AUSTRALIAN CRICKET’
The disaster on third day in Delhi could ring through the ages.
Only divine intervention can rescue the Australians from the ignominy of the morning. Hope is not dead, but it was the hope that killed fans who watched it disappear in an insane clutter of wickets.
Nine Australian fell before lunch. The Indians spin twins, Ravi Jadeja and Ravi Ashwin took 9-52 in 90 nightmare minutes.
Four wickets fell for no runs.
Recommencing on 1-61 they were bowled out for 113.
They lost their way – they lost 8-28.
This may rank among the lowest days in modern Australian cricket memory. It will rival the 47 in Cape Town and 60 in Birmingham.
If the bowlers cannot conjure a miracle this third morning will be long mourned. A Test there for the taking was taken.
Pat Cummins talked about failing the right way before this Test, well, he and his batsmen certainly nailed the failure part.
Whether it was the right or wrong way, well, who knows?
This was a debacle, but to criticise Australia’s batsman is not to given enough credit to the craft and cunning of India’s brilliant spinners.
Jadeja and Ashwin are magicians, masters of the art, sobered a little by the vigorous progress of the Australians they sniffed blood early and gorged themselves on a wicket that spun significantly and bounced erratically.
Jadeja began the day with 1-23 and two hours later walked triumphant from the field having snagged 7-42.
Ashwin grabbed the other three.
There was a feeling of confidence in the Australian camp at stumps last night. Sure they had let the chance of establishing a big first innings lead slip but they’d had made up for that with a proactive approach.
Travis Head the makeshift over was in fine fettle on 39no and the world’s best batsman Marnus Labuschagne also looking good on 16no.
Six balls into the morning Head pushed forward and edged an Ashwin delivery into the gloves of KS Bharat and it was if a hole opened, a plank in reason broke.
The trumpets heralding him as the new saviour at the top of the order were silenced and the scenes that followed should come with a discretionary warning.
Like Sylvia Plath in her description of a mental breakdown, the Australians dropped down and down, hitting a new low with every plunge.
The Indian spinners tore a hole in the fabric of the game and tore the throat of the innings open. They tormented and tortured.
The former captain Steve Smith fell LBW to Ashwin the third wicket down on 85.
Like rats following the Pied Piper of Hamelin the rest followed him over the cliff.
Marnus Labuschagne (35) was bowled by one that skidded through, Matt Renshaw (2) fashioned a fanciful sweep and was trapped LBW, Peter Handscomb (0) nicked to slips and Pat Cummins (0) tried an ambitious sweep but missed the ball altogether.
All were gone with the scoreboard stuck on 95.
Alex Carey (7), Nathan Lyon (8) and Matthew Kuhnemann (0) followed in quick succession.
Head was dismissed at 9.33am and Kuhnemann at 11.01am.
Originally published as Andrew McDonald says Australia have to find balance between defence and attack