What’s the story?
Decorated skipper and no-nonsense commentator Ian Chappell has sounded the death knell for Australia’s chances in the upcoming 4-Test series in India. The 73-year old also questioned the team’s elaborate preparation ahead of the keenly-anticipated Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
In a column for ESPNCricinfo, Chappell wrote, “Australia's tour of India is looming as a repeat of that macabre scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail: Bring out your dead.”
A wary Cricket Australia have organised different preparation methods such as practicing on particular pitches at the Center of Excellence in Brisbane, signing discarded English spinner Monty Panesar for exclusive sessions, unfurling a training camp in Dubai with emphasis on the turning ball and roping in consultant coach Sridharan Sriram to provide tips on playing in Indian conditions.
However, Chappell ruminated, “All these well-intentioned endeavours may help a little, but in some cases they could hinder. Learning to play spin bowling efficiently starts at a young age, and for someone who is a little unsure, a concentrated stint on turning pitches could lead to confusion. At the very least, it might result in a player formulating a plan that he discovers doesn't work under match conditions and he is then left floundering.”
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Prior to this, Chappell had previously warned Australia of the threat posed by Virat Kohli’s top-ranked Indian team and their battery of accomplished spinners. This time, he invoked Ricky Ponting’s grim forecast of the Kangaroos’ prospects in the showdown.
The heart of the matter
Wondering whether the experience of overseas players plying their trade in the Indian Premier League (IPL) has actually lulled them into a state of false security, Chappell deduced that lessons learnt from the shortest form might not help in evolving the Test game one bit.
The former Australian skipper also questioned the thought-process of modern-day batsmen against the turning ball. He believes that the best way in dealing with world-class spinners stems from decisive footwork rather than directionless sweep shots.
Parallels from history
Chappell’s words carry significant weight as he was part of Australia’s 3-1 series win on Indian soil during the 1969/70 season. Though he was not the skipper then (Bill Lawry was), he played an instrumental role by amassing 324 runs at an average of 46.28 against the wiles of Bishen Singh Bedi, Erapalli Prasanna and Srinivas Venkataraghavan.
Interestingly, that particular touring team spent 2 weeks in Ceylon (eventually renamed to Sri Lanka) aside from a warm-up match against West Zone before stepping onto Indian shores.
Admittedly, the task awaiting Steven Smith’s team seems to be an onerous one. But, the sheer amount of pessimism emanating from Australia sounds as if they are resigned to a hammering at the hands of India.
With the Aussies entering the series as underdogs, the Indians need to be at their best to replicate their 4-0 triumph of 2013.