The Indian bowlers, led by the crafty Ravichandran Ashwin, have successfully trapped Australian batsmen in the first two Tests, conceded Marnus Labuschagne but vehemently defended Steve Smith, who is currently going through a poor run of form.
Australia have been all out for 191, 195 and 200 in three out of four innings with Ashwin getting 10 wickets so far dismissing Smith twice and Labuschagne once.
“I’ve never faced Ashwin before until this series. You don’t have the stats that Ravi has without being a great bowler and also a great thinker,” the 26-year-old said during a virtual press conference.
“He’s (Ashwin) obviously come in really prepared and they’re being really crafty with their field and what they’re trying to do. We have fallen into their trap a few times,” he admitted Australia’s inability to counter both pace and spin.
The Indian bowling attack, on the other hand, has executed its plans to perfection, leaving a heavy leg side field to cut down their run rate and not allowed them to cross 200-mark in both the Tests.
“They are very disciplined in their bowling and have come up with a plan in both spin and pace…They’ve held it that straight line and made us face a lot of balls,” Labuschagne said.
He defended Smith for his underwhelming show.
“Call it what you want to call it, but not long ago he got two hundreds of 60-odd balls in ODIs (against India at Sydney).”
Asked what could be the reason for Smith’s sudden bad patch, Labuschagne said: “He’s not short of runs maybe, I mean, he has played a lot of white ball cricket and he probably hasn’t had as much time against the red ball as he would have liked.
“That’s the reality of cricket and of this COVID situation.”
Labuschagne reminded everyone about Smith’s staggering Test average and this current series could just be an aberration.
“He averages 60-plus after 80-odd games (75). He’s shown he’s consistent even from the start of his career to now. He just keeps putting the runs on the board.
In fact, Indians have created a leg-side field and blocked their run-scoring opportunities.
“They’ve certainly come in with a plan, making sure that they’re really not leaving stamps and and having a really heavy leg side field….
“….It obviously slows the scoring rate down because you know those shots that you do get on your legs, go for one or four,” he explained.
“And then they’re always keeping those catches in the game. We also need to come up with ways to put them under pressure.”
The Aussie No.3 had scored three centuries and a double at the SCG in the home series against Pakistan and New Zealand but he’s not been able to cross a half-century from four innings so far in this series.
“We’ve just got to keep finding ways, keep hitting balls in the training and keep finding ways to get out there.”
Another area that is ailing the home side is the number of dropped catches.
In the Boxing Day Test, they grassed as many as eight catches including two by Labuschagne.
“All of our fielders are working really hard on their exact position. If you are short leg, or leg slip or bat pad, or fielding in the slips, we are all working really hard.
“It’s maybe a concentration thing, maybe a focus thing, but it’s definitely not a work ethic thing,” he concluded.
The third Test will be live and exclusive on Sony Six, Sony Ten 3 (Hindi) and Sony Ten 1 channels from Thursday 5am onwards.