It’s all down to mindset

The one thing that is remarkable in AB de Villiers’ method is that his hands are just firm enough on the bat and not too tight, which helps him to be innovative. There is a lesson in that for the other South Africans if they have to reverse the trend in this series.

South Africa's AB De Villiers in action.   -  PTI

In recent times, the trend has been that batsmen have taken aggression to a different level on flat tracks, but on the other hand, not many have shown the panache to come out on top in adverse conditions. The plethora of runs scored at the WACA in the first three days of the Australia-New Zealand Test match was exciting to watch. However, in another time zone in Bengaluru, the South Africans played some poor shots to be dismissed cheaply on the opening day of the Test.

Generally, it is thought that batsmen find it difficult to come to terms with extra pace and bounce, but the skills displayed by most batsmen on turning tracks have not been extraordinary by any means. The South Africans fell prey to the demons in their minds in Mohali, where the ball was turning a bit more than one gets to see in the first half of a Test match. However, they could have made amends at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, where the pitch was true and had more pace to make it conducive for batting. But the South Africans crumbled save for AB deVilliers, who was unfortunate not to get a century in his 100th Test.

There are different schools of thought as far as batting is concerned; one suggests that defence is the last option, while the other promotes the theory that protecting the wicket is the prime objective of batsmen. As is the case with other things in life, both these thought processes have their pros and cons. The students of the school of aggression tend to go after the bowlers in all formats and while doing so, they make a few adjustments to their technique to achieve their objectives. The bat is held tightly and the bottom-hand gains dominance over the top-hand, which allows them to generate enough power. The flipside of this method is that it does not help the batsmen to develop a secure defence. As a result, they find the going tough when the ball deviates after pitching.

The South Africans have tried to be positive, but there is a lot of difference in batsmen being positive and batsmen playing shots due to lack of confidence in their defence. The tight bottom-hand forces the batsmen to open their shoulders, which results in their bats coming down across the line of the ball. That is the reason the visitors have been struggling to counter the Indian spinners. While their upbringing on hard bouncy tracks can be attributed to the South Africans’ method of holding the bat tight, the shorter formats of the game have influenced the Indian batsmen to resort to those methods as well. Hence, they are not scoring as many runs as they can.

The South Africans have to realise that they can get runs on turning tracks provided they look to work the ball by playing with the turn and creating angles. That will only be possible if they decide to play with soft hands. Moreover, soft hands are necessary if batsmen have to defend better on turning tracks. The second notion of protecting the wicket has to come into play on turning tracks, failing which the visitors will keep getting into a quicksand if they continue adhering to the “aggression” mode. The only silver lining in the cloud for the South Africans has been de Villiers, who has worked out a method to score runs. Perhaps it has a lot to do with his mindset.

He might be thinking that runs are there to be had on turners as the spinners have little margin of error. That’s the reason why he has put away the loose deliveries while his team-mates have played predetermined shots and perished. The one thing that is remarkable in de Villiers’ method is that his hands are just firm enough on the bat and not too tight, which helps him to be innovative. There is a lesson in that for the other South Africans if they have to reverse the trend in this series.