In India, your heart guides you more than your mind. I have heard this statement many times and it could be the difference between who wins the Border Gavaskar Trophy next month.
In Australia, the series has now surpassed The Ashes to become the most eagerly awaited Test cricket event. Time zones lend themselves to prime time viewing and the love/hate relationship Australian cricket now has with India is compelling. India is now seen as the final frontier where reputations (and fortunes) are made. It’s a far cry from the old adage that you had to score runs in Australia before being considered a true Test batsman – now it’s equally true to succeed in India.
If you allow the emotional roller-coaster to take you away in India, there is certainly an inherent danger of playing from the heart. You can’t win a Test in one session, but when the crowd roars and boos with every boundary, one silly moment can lose the game.
Australian cricketers are no longer intimidated by Indian pitches, weather or crowds, but they understand that this series is a long way from playing for an IPL franchise. Whether or not the Indians can control their emotions in the crucial contest is likely to decide the outcome. This also applies when calling for DRS. Too often, India have allowed an over-enthusiastic bowler to influence their thinking. Smith and Labuschagne, on the other hand, will almost always review their own dismissals – this is something India should involve them in.
Virat Kohli And david warner Thrive on raw energy. Cheteshwar Pujara and Usman Khawaja oppose that mindset. Labuschagne must find a way to conserve his nervous energy; If he continues to give as many chances as he has so far in his Test career, then he will be tempting fate. I have always said that when he goes through a patch when catches are gleefully taken, it will test his resolve. India need to see this as an opportunity to make inroads in the middle order, even if Steve Smith in rare form stands in his way. His quirky technique will be tested but he seems to be finding a way to overcome most bowling schemes.
Australia have to lose a few tosses. He has won all five tosses at home this summer. If the pitch takes late spin then it can be a crucial determinant. Australia have all their bases covered with a balanced attack but their depth will be tested if injuries strike. India are already at a serious disadvantage without Rishabh Pant and possibly Jasprit Bumrah. Pant is the batsman from whom Australia feared the most because he did not flinch. Kohli and Pujara will be the most prized scalps, but when things get tight, Brisbane 2021 will no longer evoke bad memories, unless someone else can channel that inner-pants.
Australia’s mantra of the 80s
In the 1980s, while touring the Australian subcontinent came up with the mantra—to lose your temper is to lose the war. That theory may no longer be true. The advent of DRS has meant that batsmen are given out when they lead from the front pad and bat-pad catches are taken at the hot spot. IPL has killed off spinning pitches to some extent. England recently showed a new way of taking the game forward by bending the neck in Pakistan. But targeting an inexperienced Pakistani attack is one thing… Will England (or India) have the guts to face Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins and keep doing it even if they fail the first time around?
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Australia will not sit quietly and wait for India’s spinners to suffocate. The reverse sweep would be more of a novelty shot. Khawaja, Warner and Alex Carey will try to sweep R Ashwin to create distractions. This might be the most impressive shot of the series. India’s best fielders need to be deployed at short third man. Series will be decided on such small things.
The author is a former first-class cricketer based in Brisbane