Batting coach Michael Di Venuto on Tuesday said Australia committed a blunder by trying to push the scoring rate in the second Test, which the visitors lost to India by six wickets. Di Venuto said Australia’s batting plans were working well till a dramatic collapse saw them lose eight wickets for 28 runs. Steve Smith’s dismissal to the sweep shot triggered the collapse as Australia were all out for 113 in 31.1 overs, giving India just 115 runs to win the Test, which the home side did in 26.4 overs to go 2-0 up and retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
“Plans certainly weren’t wrong. Our plans are good, but if people go away from their plans they’re going to get in trouble, as we saw,” Di Venuto said here on Tuesday.
“We were almost ahead of the game, and the feeling just looking at it was ‘geez, if we just get another 50 runs real quick’ which you can’t do in this country. We’ve spoken about that, so it’s not like it’s something new.
“But pressure does strange things and we saw a lot of people go out and try and sweep their way to a score. It’s not all doom and gloom, but the 90 minutes of batting certainly wasn’t anything special.”
Many Australian batters perished while trying to sweep and Di Venuto admitted that the shot carried a high percentage of risk for players who aren’t adept at playing it. Di Venuto said most of the Australian batters erred in using the shot as a method of trying to get off strike rather than trusting their defence to survive.
“It was pretty obvious where we went wrong. With batting, it’s a pretty similar analogy – you’ve got to swim between the flags (play safe) in this country (India). If you go outside the flags in your game plan, you’re going to get in trouble.”
He also cited the skill with which opener Usman Khawaja swept his way to a series average of 150-plus in Pakistan last year and almost 50 on the subsequent Test campaign in Sri Lanka.
“Uz (Khawaja) played beautifully in the first innings (at Delhi), and has through Pakistan and the subcontinent. It (sweeping) is part of his game, but he also picks the balls to do it,” Di Venuto said.
“It’s smart, he’s not using it as a form of defence and I think that’s what happened towards the back end (of Australia’s second innings). People weren’t trusting their defence so started trying to sweep, which is the wrong way to go about it.”
Di Venuto said these things sometimes happened under pressure and when players pressed the panic button.
“When you’re under pressure and you panic, and you’re not trusting your defence, sometimes it is ‘I’ve just got to get up the other end’ and how do you do that? The sweep shot the other day seemed to be the way they were trying to do it, which is not the ideal way on a spinning wicket with variable bounce. It’s common sense, but that’s pressure.
“If you’re coming over here, and you’re not a sweeper but you’re trying to sweep, that’s not going to work and I think we had some good examples of that.”
Di Venuto also described Smith’s dismissal, which triggered the Australian collapse as “unusual”.
“I haven’t spoken to him yet about that, and where he’s at. But he’s excited about these conditions, he loves these conditions. It will be a frustrating thing for him at the moment that he hasn’t had the impact he would have liked.
“He was certainly disappointed when he got out, and he made it known in the dressing room it was a poor shot.
“I think most people would have heard that, so they should have had a fair idea of what not to do,” the batting coach said.
Meanwhile, the bulk of the Australian squad have been granted a few days leave from cricket duties, with some making a trip to the Taj Mahal in Agra and others taking to the golf course.
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