Analysis: What changes do batsmen need to make in Australia?
Batting in Australia can get a little bit tricky for batsmen who are more used to playing in sub-continent. The ball reaches a bit quicker at you and tends to hit the bat higher than expected. So what exactly are some of the things that need to ticked when batting in such conditions?
Have a solid defensive game off the back foot
The point is simple. You cannot attempt a hook or a pull shot on every single short ball faced. Some of the balls will be there to hit, some won’t. Hence, it is important to be able to defend well off the back foot. It is equally important to have a sense of what line (of the ball) should be ducked under or swayed. There can be a few exceptions to this. Steve Smith’s batting in the Ashes was more about ducking under the short ball as he was standing front on, his base was very wide and his weight was always going across the stumps. That made it impossible for him to sway out of the way.
Purely in terms of weight distribution, your weight should be going forwards slightly (think of KP) so that the upper body can either get out of the way or get under the ball (in case of ducking). Also, when defending off the back foot, if the majority of weight is already on the back foot well before the ball arrives, you’re asking for trouble. It is impossible to get on your toes and defend in that case. If you push off your front foot onto the back foot right before the ball arrives, you can get on your toes and your hands will adjust to the bounce of the ball.
Don’t expect a short ball every time
Batsmen can get carried away in Australia as they are waiting for the short ball every time. Now that puts them in a negative frame of mind. It messes with the positions they want to get into. I’ve mentioned earlier how putting all of your weight onto the back foot can get the batsmen into bad positions. Also, the fuller ball also becomes a nemesis as batters are often caught on the move while defending or attacking. They are sitting in the crease instead and often missing out on a lot of drives which puts them under a lot of pressure. Remember Azhar Ali’s double hundred at the MCG? Recall how many drives he hit straight back past the bowler.
Be a bit careful when driving…
“I don’t we’ll overdo it [bouncer]. We might have our different plans to different batters but, like always, I try and use one bouncer an over or once every couple of overs. It's going to be the full ball that gets the wickets,” said Pat Cummins ahead of first Pakistan Test. With the little bit of extra bounce in the Gabba surface in particular, batsmen have to be careful when playing a big booming cover drive. With the angled bat and the extra bounce, the percentage of getting caught behind the stumps rises drastically. Instead, wait for the ball to be a bit fuller and hit it right under your eyes.
Stand a bit taller, maybe?
Again, in order to ride that extra bit of bounce batsmen can experiment with standing a bit more upright at the crease. Batting is a very individual thing, so it is important to experiment in the nets and see what works and what doesn’t. Also, the other thing which can be experimented with is to have your hands slightly higher in your set-up. That can enable batters to hit the ball on top of the bounce and time the ball well.
High hands: Babar on the left (in 2016) and on the right (in 2019)
If you watch Babar Azam closely in the practice game against Australia A, he has tweaked these things which have enabled him to hit on top of the bounce. Again, one size doesn’t fit all but these are some of things which can be explored.