New Delhi: In July 2020, when the world was reeling under Covid-19 pandemic and there was no cricket in sight for India, bowling coach Bharat Arun got a call from head coach Ravi Shastri who asked him to devise a plan to cut Australian batsmen’s off-side strokeplay.
Australia’s strategy at home has always revolved around their batsmen scoring big and bowlers having the total to play with, apply pressure and watch the opposition crumble.
“Shastri called me in July. He said we need to take off-side away from them and asked to plan something on that line. We knew Smith and Labuschagne get a lot of runs on the off-side. We took a cue from the New Zealand attack,” said Arun while speaking to the media on Friday.
The India team management, who had a successful tour of Australia in 2018-19, was to encounter Steve Smith, David Warner and Marnus Labuschagne on this tour, unlike last time when Warner and Smith were absent since they were serving bans and Labuschagne was a greenhorn and hadn’t cemented his place in the Australia squad.
New Zealand didn’t let Smith score a single century in the three Tests in 2019-20 Australian summer, getting him caught on the leg-side with fast bowler Neil Wagner using the short-pitched delivery to good effect. Wagner got him four out of five times as the Kiwis dried up Smith’s runs on the leg-side.
India used the same strategy during their recently concluded tour of Australia and throughout the series, they didn’t allow the Aussies to get away with the kind of big totals they are used to scoring at home. Australia got past 350 just once in the series, their highest total being 369 against a second-string India attack at the Gabba where they lost.
“Ravi said to come up with a plan to eat out the off-side. Our idea was to pack the leg-side with fielders. We employed the theory in Adelaide with Kohli as captain. Then when Rahane took over, we continued to do the same. The bowlers responded well,” added Arun.
The India bowling coach, a former India pace bowler, credited Shastri for ensuring that the net bowlers didn’t leave at the end of the limited-overs series.
“Australia tour is a great challenge. It is one of the most challenging tours. It was a great move by Shastri to hold back all bowlers. They were supposed to leave after the limited-overs leg. We thought if something happens, it will be tough to seek replacements (during Covid-19). Them being with us throughout helped. They knew what to do,” added Arun.
The bowling coach added that all the players were treated equally and given opportunity to play at the nets.
“Washington Sundar used to spend half an hour everyday batting. We (the coaching staff and throw-down experts) needed to spend extra hours, but everyone was treated equally, given equal attention and importance. It paid off. When we anted it the most, it helped,” said the 58-year-old former India and Tamil Nadu player.