Freddie Wilde analyses how the Windies were spun out on day three.
Batting against Ravi Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav isn’t easy. Batting against them on a day three pitch in Rajkot which took turn from day one is even harder and add into the equation a deficit of more than 450 which allowed India to set attacking fields and it is exceptionally difficult.
That said, at the very least the challenge for the batsmen in such a situation should be to force the spinners to get them out, rather than gifting wickets away. On day three in Rajkot the Windies—conspicuously lacking a clear strategy to counter the spinners—emphatically failed this challenge.
Only Kieran Powell—who played an excellent innings of 83 off 93 balls—appeared to find the right balance between attack and defence.
The dismissals of Kraigg Brathwaite and Shai Hope illustrated the dangers of being too defensive. Both players were intent on dead-batting the ball and this premeditation saw them caught in two minds between going well forward or well back. Brathwaite pushed onto his front foot but not far enough to smother the turn and was forced to retreat onto the back foot. By the time the ball reached him he was out of time and all he could do was turn the ball into the hands of short leg from no man’s land—neither back nor forward. Hope was similarly indecisive with his footwork and was caught on the back foot when he should have been forward; a misreading of the line gave him no room to adjust and he was trapped in front.
Powell’s intent was made clear in the second over of the innings when he twice skipped down the track to Ashwin and hit boundaries down the ground. This was to be a theme of his innings. Powell would come down the track to Ashwin 10 times, earning him 27 runs. It was positive batting but it wasn’t reckless. Powell appeared to be reading Ashwin’s variations from the hand and carefully chose those balls to come down to. In was noticeable how he only went down the track once to Kuldeep whose pace and trajectory mean he is a bowler who beats batsmen in the air; Ashwin does get significant drift but his career record against batsmen coming down the track suggests it’s a good option for batsmen – the same cannot be said against Kuldeep.
|Career Record||Down the Track Average||Sweep Shot Average|
|v R Ashwin||49.96||26.53|
|v Kuldeep Yadav||6.00 (4 dismissals)||77 runs, 0 dimissals|
Powell’s judicious approach was contrasted by the recklessness of Shimron Hetmyer and Sunil Ambris. Perhaps emboldened by Powell’s success coming down the track to Ashwin, both Hetmyer and Ambris charged at Kuldeep and played big attacking shots. Hetmyer did it to the first ball he faced from Kuldeep and Ambris the third. Hetmyer was beaten in the flight and Ambris by the googly. It cost both men their wickets. Roston Chase soon followed when he failed to get on top of a half volley from Kuldeep and middled a booming drive straight to cover. All three men had fallen to thoughtless attacking shots.
Positive intent is commendable but coming down the track to Kuldeep is reckless. Before day three in Rajkot Kuldeep had taken 2 for 16 from 19 balls when the batsmen had come down the track. A better option—particularly if the batsman is struggling to read the spin—would have been the sweep – Kuldeep has conceded 77 runs from 32 sweeps in Tests without taking a wicket but the Windies played just two sweeps against him all innings.
Powell eventually fell too. Caught—like Brathwaite and Hope before him—half-way forward and prodded a catch to short leg. He had however batted for 93 balls and scored 83 runs – more than the rest of the Windies top six combined. Batting wasn’t easy on day three in Rajkot but through intelligence and skill Powell found a way to survive and to score which is more than can be said for his teammates.
Freddie Wilde is an analyst at CricViz.