New Delhi: Feet movement is the malaise plaguing Indian batsmen at the moment, and the ability or inability to move the feet is all part of the mindset, said Anshuman Gaekwad, a former India batsman who stood tall against a barrage of short-pitched bowling by the West Indies pace attack in the 1970s.
“Back in our day, we didn’t have any fast bowlers or bouncy wickets at home when we landed up in the West Indies. We had nothing. These boys have at least played in all these countries where these conditions are prevailing,” Gaekwad, who opened the innings in that Kingston Test and was part of the Indian Test team between the mid-70s to mid-80s, told IANS.
Indian batting’s recent collapses, in New Zealand and Australia following some below-par batting performances in England in 2018 have set the tongues wagging. This batting line-up was supposed to have mastered all conditions having toured overseas, including Australia, New Zealand, England, South Africa quite recently and more frequently than earlier teams not just with the Indian senior teams but also on A tours.
But their inability to play the moving ball has been exposed time and again with the latest being the debacle at Adelaide Oval where they were shot out for 36, their lowest total in Test history and just 10 more than the lowest-ever Test score of 26 made by New Zealand back in 1955.
Gaekwad, who faced a Windies pace attack led by Michael Holding at Kingston Jamaica in the 1976 Test to score 81, was surprised that despite such exposure the Indians haven’t been able to adapt. He touched on two aspects of technique — one is getting closer to the ball, which comes through feet movement, and then go besides the ball against deliveries that are short.
“What I can understand, and I have gone through all this, is that you need to use your feet, you cannot stand and deliver. You have to move your feet, front or back, get closer to the ball. Also, you have to get besides the line of the ball (against short balls). That’s very important,” said Gaekwad. He added that the ability to leave the ball is very important.
“In all these countries where the bounce is more, the pace is more, you need to have your technique sorted — where you can play the ball and where you can leave, it is more leaving than playing till the bowler really gets at you, tries something else,” added Gaekwad. The former India batsman, who played 40 Test matches and over 200 first-class matches, added that adapting quickly to the country you are touring is the key. He said that every country, every pitch and condition demands a different style of play.
The Adelaide Test was played as a day-nighter with the pink ball unlike on previous India tours. The ball this time moved prodigiously and the wicket at the start looked spongy before getting a bit quicker. “It is about the basic technique and adjusting to the conditions. What you play in India, you cannot play in England, what you play in England, you cannot play in Australia, or what you play in Australia, you cannot play in New Zealand,” he said.
“It varies from time to time, country to country and depends on the season — like in colder weather, the ball swings more. If there is sponginess in the wicket you can’t play the same shots which you usually play,” he added.
“What the boys need to understand is that they need to adapt. Why all countries come and struggle in India because these are different conditions. Why we go out and struggle, it is also because of different conditions. Conditions are going to be there but the fact remains you need to adjust and adapt and change your technique and you have to move your feet,” said Gaekwad, 63.
Gaekwad, who was known for his ability to stick to the wicket for a long time, added that the secret of knowing the off-stump lies in the mindset. “Knowing the off-stump is about the mindset, you need to guard the off-stump,” he said before adding, “if you stand in the crease you won’t survive abroad. You can’t stand and deliver like in India.”
He also said the player needs to know his limitations and look to improve. “When Sunil and I opened in the West Indies, I could not do what Sunil could, but I did what I could looking at Sunil to survive. So I did. You cannot go out there and say that this is the only thing I know (being inflexible), you may struggle then. You need to think of improving,” he said.
By Khurram Habib