Did India miss sweep shots in the Pune Test?

To counter the spinners a batsman should use the depth of the crease.

India's K. L. Rahul attempts a reverse sweep in the first innings of the Pune Test against Australia.   -  K. Murali Kumar

Would the sweep shot have been a good ploy against the Australian spinners on the Pune minefield?

There was a belief that left-armer Steve O’Keefe was allowed to bowl a particular line since the Indian batsmen were unwilling to sweep him.

If played judiciously, the sweep is a shot that can disrupt the rhythm and the methods of a bowler.

The Indian batting line-up for the first Test was without natural sweepers. And the one batsman who is a fluent sweeper, Karun Nair, was not a part of the playing XI. Since the right-handed Karun can, both, sweep and reverse sweep, he could have been effective against both Nathan Lyon and O’Keefe, sweeping them with the turn.

Ideally, you would want a left-hander to take on O’Keefe with greater confidence and, perhaps, sweep him with the spin. But then, India’s top seven batsmen are all right-handers.

Former India left-arm spinner Murali Kartik told Sportstar, “On the Pune pitch, it would have been hard to control the sweep. And you cannot pre-meditate it.”

Element of luck

The sweep is a high-risk, high-return option that has been successfully employed in the past. But then, a batsman needs an element of luck to pull off the stroke consistently.

Kartik said, “O’Keefe has a round-arm action and under-cuts the ball rather than spin it. On a rank turner, he is particularly dangerous since he himself does not know which ball would turn away and which one would come through straight. He bowled a middle-and-off-stump line, varied his pace and was generally quicker through the air.”

He dwelt on O’Keefe’s length. “He bowled fuller, got the batsmen on to the front foot for the drive and found the edges or got the ball to straighten. India’s left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja’s length was a little short for the surface. Because of this, while he beat the bat, he could not find the edges consistently.”

Kartik said the moment a batsman started using the depth of the crease, a spinner was less likely to get him. “As a spinner you don’t want a batsman to get on to the back foot unless you want to set him up with an arm ball.”

Former India batsman Chandu Borde, known for his exemplary footwork, said, “You need to apply yourself on a turner. Pick the length and go forward or back with assurance. If you go deep into your crease, you see the extent of turn and have a lot more options. Along with these elements, a sweep shot can also be used.”