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India vs Australia: By picking three pacers for a Test to be played on a dusty track with all possible shades of brown, Michael Clarke gave the impression that he had an independent mind and would rather back his strength than get overly influenced by the surface.
It would be a different story once the Test started. The track did weigh on the Australian skipper’s mind when it came to formulate his team’s bowling plan. Here, he didn’t back Australia’s obvious strength and, in turn, missed a chance to exploit a perennial Indian weakness.
Several generations of Indian batsmen, including the current crop and the old masters in the commentator’s box, have grievously chased balls that head towards the slips after pitching. It’s a given that before an India game, the rivals plot to attack the off-stump, pitch it up and move the ball away. Meanwhile, the fielding coaches pay special attention to the slip cordon and wicketkeepers sweat it out as they practice holding onto fine edges.
After the second day’s play, Australia’s pace spearhead James Pattinson, who had bowled two inspired and successful spells, specifically spoke about his team’s bowling plan. But surprisingly, there was no mention of the ‘away-going ball’, a must-have on every visiting team’s checklist when they take the flight to India.
Instead, Pattinson revealed Australia’s aim was to attack the stumps with the incoming ball. It was an unusual call as the ball heading towards the stumps is easier to block or drive, especially for the Indians.
In the absence of conventional swing in the initial overs, said Pattinson, Australia were banking on early reverse by bowling with a scrambled seam. “As soon as we saw that it wasn’t swinging conventionally, we went cross-seam and tried to scuff one side up, which worked quite well. That way I got Sehwag out,” he said.
So when Sachin Tendulkar walked in at 12/2, the Australians, thinking on their feet, decided to stick to the successful tactic. “My plan early on was to Sachin was to try and bounce him. We changed it (the plan) at the last minute and decided to target the stumps,” he said. In hindsight, it can be said that the Aussies got unduly carried away by hitting the stumps twice in first five overs, even though the dismissals weren’t quite a direct result of their strategy. Murali Vijay played a stroke