It’s almost inevitable now that the build-up to a Test series involving Australia will heavily feature Steven Smith and the challenge of bowling to him. Smith has himself spoken of the possibility that India will look to bowl persistently short at him – a method that brought Neil Wagner success when New Zealand toured Australia in 2019-20 – but Sachin Tendulkar has suggested a different approach.
Tendulkar wants India’s fast bowlers to bowl in the fifth-stump channel to Smith, shifting to that wider line to account for his pronounced shuffle across his stumps.
“Smith’s technique is unconventional… Normally, we tell a bowler in Test matches to bowl on and around off stump or maybe fourth-stump line,” Tendulkar told PTI. “But for Smith, because he shuffles, maybe that line moves further away [from off stump] by four to five inches.
“One has to aim between [an imaginary] fourth and fifth stump for Steve to nick one. It’s just a mental adjustment of line, more than anything else.
“Smith, I read, said he is ready for the short-pitched stuff… probably he is expecting bowlers to be aggressive up front with him. But I think he needs to be tested on and around that off-stump channel. Keep him on [the] back foot and induce that early mistake.”
The first Test in Adelaide will be a pink-ball, day-night game. The change in conditions around twilight could make the timing of declarations crucial, Tendulkar said.
“Probably due to difference in timing, you have to score those quick runs in the first session of the day which is afternoon, when the pitch will be flat. The pink ball starts seaming around in twilight and that’s the ideal time to bowl,” Tendulkar said. “So pacing the innings and the timing of declaration becomes very critical. Suppose you have a decent score on board and you are eight down at the sunset, you should declare rather than going for an extra 20 runs.
“Put the opposition in during that twilight hour and take two to three wickets straight up. That will be more valuable than those 20 runs.”
Tendulkar contended that the help for the new ball during twilight – observed in a number of pink-ball Tests that have taken place so far – was probably due to the grass on the pitch cooling down, before another change in conditions caused by the onset of dew.
“Get the top order out when the grass cover on the pitch is cool but not wet,” Tendulkar said. “If the grass is cool then there will be seam movement but if it’s wet, then it will go straight and just skid through the surface.
“Once the outfield gets wet and if some dew is on offer, then it will be easy for batsmen.”
Over the last few years, India’s bowling attack has been able to consistently bowl oppositions out in Test matches abroad. But in Australia, Tendulkar said it would also be crucial for India to have holding bowlers to build pressure by keeping the scoring down.
“As I have always said, we have one of the best and most balanced bowling attacks India has ever had. Eventually, you have to pick 20 wickets to win Test matches. But 20 wickets shouldn’t be too expensive either.
“… along with our attacking bowlers, we should also identify bowlers who can hold one end up on unresponsive pitches, bowl those continuous maiden overs to build the pressure.”