The England team started off their tour with a morale-boosting draw at Rajkot. After the match, there were voices which questioned the nature of the pitch, as the surface prepared for the first Test match was a benign one, and did not offer any assistance to the Indian spinners.
The England batsmen who struggled to get going against Bangladesh on pitches which turned prodigiously right from the outset found their touch against the Indian spinners in Rajkot. There was very little assistance for the spinners and the tourists made merry.
Even as the other batsmen had a field day on a surface which was bereft of any assistance to the spinners, Ben Duckett struggled against Ravichandran Ashwin. The Indian off-spinner who was not at his best, was good enough to trouble with his drift, turn and bounce. He worked over Duckett, and examined his technique thoroughly and eventually got him nicking behind to Ajinkya Rahane at first slip.
This trend continued in Vishakhapatnam, where the surface was far more receptive to spin bowling. Duckett who came in at number 4 was immediately at sea against Ashwin, who was beginning to find his groove. While there is no shame in getting out to the number 1 Test bowler in the world, the manner of Duckett's dismissal will worry the England think tank. His technique was iffy, to say the least, and at no point did he look at ease against the class of Ashwin, and eventually was castled by the wily off-spinner.
So where exactly is it all going wrong for Duckett? There has to be a flaw in his technique and this needs immediate attention.
Ashwin has come a long way as a spin bowler and now uses his body more. He gets the ball to drift in beautifully and lands the ball around middle and leg stump. He did the same against the young left-hander, and Duckett responded by taking his right foot away from the pitch of the ball towards leg stump in order to gain access to the ball. In the process, he exposed his middle and off stump to Ashwin, who got the ball to spin away a touch and clip the off stump.
If we go back to the first Test match, Duckett attempted to play the ball in the same manner and ended up nicking the ball to first slip. He committed the same mistake against Mehedi Hasan Miraz, the young Bangladesh off-spinner who tormented the England batsmen.
This technique is a recipe for disaster and hence Duckett has to go back to the drawing board and look for solutions. One of the first steps would be to come close to the pitch of the ball and attempt to play the line of the ball. If he is close to the pitch of the ball, and then the ball turns away, he will be beaten, but will not nick it. Also, since he is covering the line, the stumps will be covered and there will be fewer chances of him getting bowled.
Also, he should look to stretch right forward and thrust his bat right in front of his pads and not prod tentatively. If the ball then takes the outside edge, it would invariably go to gully or wide of first slip. If the ball does not turn, it will find the middle of the bat, and if it goes on with the arm, the ball will kiss the inside half of the bat and go towards fine leg. Since the bat is in front of the pads, the chances of the ball going to short leg off the pads are almost negligible.
There is no denying the talent that Ben Duckett possesses, and he now has to be honest with himself and rectify the flaw which has crept into his technique. How much is he willing to learn will be evident when he walks out to bat in the second innings.