Runs have come at a premium in the series so far. As much as the romantics drool over the efficacy of the two bowling attacks, run-rate has become a talking point after the first two Tests. Historically, over the last two decades, both Australia and India have been known to be two free-scoring batting line-ups. But neither team could score at over three runs per over in Adelaide and Melbourne.
Team India regular skipper Virat Kohli had talked about intent before leaving after the Adelaide debacle. On Saturday, David Warner, still waiting to get into the series post his groin injury, held the mirror for both the teams. “From both teams, there has been lack of prudency at the top of the order. Both attacks have bowled so well that all the batsmen have got into that period where they try to bat time and that dictated that run rate,” Warner said.
Counterattacking in Test cricket is as much an art as batting time. The Indian team seemed to get ahead in the Melbourne Test with the likes of Shubman Gill and Rishabh Pant looking to score at every opportunity. India coach Ravi Shastri, for instance, went on to praise Pant’s breezy knock of 29 saying that those 29 runs meant lot more.
“You need to take it to the bowlers and have that intent. You don’t need just do it with scoring runs. But loud calling, be in the face of the bowlers. Just unsettle their line and lengths,” Warner, watching from the sidelines for two weeks, was literally pleading.
“In Test cricket, you can’t allow great attacks to dictate you as a batsman. It has its challenges. Sometimes you need to play outside the square. Be brave. I’d rather go down swinging rather than sitting in the crease,” he added before throwing out a warning: “If I can get up and play in Sydney, I’ll have that intent.”
But Warner left a rider to. “On the other hand, if they are bowling well you have to respect that. If the attack is going well, you have to play a shot somewhere.”
Counterattacking isn’t about going hammer and tongs. Warner claims ‘drop-and-run’ to be one of his key weapons. It’s good at applying pressure and releasing the pressure of his partner at the other end.
While we are at discussing ‘intent’, a subject of great interest in Indian cricket circles, Warner dropped his take on it. “I talk about body language, intent. There other ways of showing intent than swinging your bat to put the pressure back on the bowlers. Play the cut or pull when there is the odd short pitch ball.”
Warner’s game has revolved around see-ball-hit-ball theory. Attacking or even counterattacking comes naturally to him. “The 84 Tests I have played have been premeditated attack. Nothing changes for myself. The team needs to see how they want to go about it,” he left it at that.
But then, it’s obvious there’s a realization in both camps to move game forward with the bat. The two bowling attacks have been given very little wiggle room. They have delivered. Unless the batting pulls through, it could be down to which attack blinks or runs out of steam!