Ind-Aus: Pitting player against player

With the India-Australia Test series round the corner, we discuss how certain duels between key players of both the sides can have a bearing on the outcome.

Ravichandran Ashwin was able to stifle the explosive Australian opener David Warner when India last toured Australia in 2014-15. But Warner was able to get some runs against Ashwin in India in 2013. What’s in store now?   -  V. GANESAN

Ravindra Jadeja was able to assert his superiority on the Australian captain Michael Clarke when Australia last toured here in 2013. How will Jadeja fare in the coming series against Australia?   -  K. R. DEEPAK

A lot depends on whether Australian skipper Steve Smith can collar Ravindra Jadeja, who has been successful against visiting captains.   -  Getty Images

With the Australian team’s tour of India, which includes four Test matches, round the corner, we will look at a head-to-head analysis covering the recent Tests involving these teams, even against other opposition. This will provide invaluable insights relating to these important Tests and provide some clarity on which of these individual contests would be crucial.

I have considered the following four series for this analysis.

-India-Australia series in India in 2013.

-Australia-India series in Australia in 2014-15.

-India-England series in India in 2016.

-Australia-Pakistan series in Australia in 2016-17.

I have selected 17 important confrontations for this discussion.

These are presented in the order of importance, as I see, in the context of the coming series. At the end, I have provided a summary.

1. Jadeja dominating Opposing Captain-1

As I was brought up watching the classical spinning methods of Bedi and Prasanna, the ‘spinning/non-spinning darts’ which are the staple of Jadeja’s bowling do not impress me much. However, I understand that Jadeja has been very effective at home. His value to the team is no less than that of Ashwin. As the modern tendency for the batsmen is to attack, it is Jadeja who picks up these batsmen often.

Ind-Aus-2013: Jadeja-Clarke: 190b/72r/5w/14.4

Jadeja was devastating against Michael Clarke, captain of the Australian team that toured India during 2013. Clarke had an average series, scoring 286 runs at 47.67. However, five of Clarke’s six dismissals in the series were effected by Jadeja. Included in these was a first ball dismissal in Mohali. An average of 14.4 tells its tale. Jadeja dismissed Clarke once every 38 balls. I would venture to say that this hegemony Jadeja exercised over Clarke was one of the reasons for the 4-0 loss Australia suffered.

2. Jadeja dominating Opposing Captain-2

Ind-Eng-2016: Jadeja-Cook: 206b/75r/6w/12.5

When a strong England toured India last year, Jadeja decided that he would try to dominate Cook, as he did Clarke a couple of years back. Cook’s overall series performance was below par (369 runs at 36.90). The major reason for this can be attributed to the six dismissals at the hands of Jadeja. Cook crossed 50 in only one of the six innings. Numbers do tell a story: as evidenced by the very low average (12.5) and fantastic strike rate (34). I would again say that Jadeja had a great hand in India achieving the comprehensive 4-0 win over England.

3. Jadeja not so effective against other top-order England batsmen

Ind-Eng-2016: Jadeja-Root: 351b/150r/3w/50.0

Ind-Eng-2016: Jadeja-Bairstow: 233b/ 95r/1w/95.0

Ind-Eng-2016: Jadeja-Hameed:151b/ 47r/0w/47.0 ***

Total: 735b/292r/4w/73.0

However, Jadeja was not so effective against three other major English batsmen, Root, Bairstow and Hameed. He was below par against Root, quite out of his depth against Bairstow and just about contained Hameed. His average against Root matched the England batsman’s series average of 49.1. The combined numbers indicate that the English middle-order held their own against Jadeja. Jadeja needed over 30 overs to capture each middle-order wicket. It is doubtful whether Handscomb and Khawaja could do this against Jadeja.

4. Ashwin’s nightmare against Smith

Aus-Ind-2014: Ashwin-Smith: 262b/177r/0w/177.0 ***

Ashwin was totally decimated by Smith when India toured Australia. Around 45 overs yielded an RpO of nearly 4.5 and no wickets. This is unlikely to happen in India. However, it must be said that Smith, in general, seems to have had the measure of Ashwin.

5. Ashwin at par against Warner

Ind-Aus-2013: Ashwin-Warner: 168b/79r/2w/39.5

It is fair to say that the Ashwin-Warner duel ended in a hard-fought draw during 2013 in India. Ashwin could contain Warner, to some extent and Warner could point to the near-40 average.

6. Ashwin devastating against Warner, away

Aus-Ind-2014: Ashwin-Warner: 49b/28r/3w/9.3

Amazingly, Ashwin ran roughshod over Warner, that too, in the latter’s home territory. A batting average below 10 and a strike rate of 16 balls per wicket point to a total dominance. It is unlikely that Warner would forget this when he comes to India. However, it is worth remembering that otherwise Warner had a good series, scoring 427 runs at 53.38.

7. Ashwin’s mixed series against Root (and other English batsmen)

Ind-Eng-2016: Ashwin-Root: 232b/149r/2w/74.5

We have already seen that Jadeja was not that effective against Root. Even Ashwin was ineffective against him. A cost of nearly 75 runs per wicket indicates the comfortable tenure that Root enjoyed against Ashwin. Ashwin dismissed Bairstow and Moeen Ali twice each, but at costs of 46 runs and 59 runs per wicket respectively. However, Ashwin was quite successful against Stokes with figures like 228b/101r/5w/20.2.

8. Kohli dominating average spinners

Ind-Eng-2016: Rashid-Kohli: 323b/201r/2w/100.5

Ind-Eng-2016: Moeen Ali->Kohli:188b/ 97r/1w/ 97.0

Let us be clear about one thing. If you bowl average spin against Kohli, he will slaughter you, as Dhoni did in 2013. In the last tour, Rashid and Moeen Ali bowled some innocuous spin and Kohli took them to the cleaners. An RpO of near 4.0, achieved across 85 overs and just three dismissals. O’Keeffe should be aware of this threat.

9. Kohli holding his own against the English pacemen

Ind-Eng-2016: Woakes -Kohli: 78b/ 48r/1w/48.0

Ind-Eng-2016: Broad -Kohli: 99b/ 52r/1w/52.0

Ind-Eng-2016: Anderson-Kohli:112b/ 69r/0w/69.0 ***

Ind-Eng-2016: Stokes -Kohli:128b/ 88r/1w/88.0

Total: 417b/257r/3w/85.7

Kohli had the upper hand against the English pacemen, as indicated by the figures above. An overall average of 139 balls and 86 runs per wicket lost indicates a near-dominant situation. If he repeats this against Starc & Co., India would indeed do very well.

10. Lyon partly effective, at home, against Indian top order

Aus-Ind-2014: Lyon-Vijay: 194b/172r/2w/86.0

Aus-Ind-2014: Lyon-Pujara: 130b/ 56r/2w/28.0

Aus-Ind-2014: Lyon-Kohli: 311b/187r/1w/187.0

Aus-Ind-2014: Lyon-Rahane: 192b/113r/3w/37.7

Total: 827b/528r/8w/66.0

Lyon’s home performance against India in 2014 assumes some significance. He was very good against Pujara and Rahane, but was quite ineffective against Kohli and Vijay. The overall performance seems a bit below par. However, these were on the not-so-helpful Australian pitches.

11. Lyon’s mixed series against Pakistan’s top order

Aus-Pak-2016: Lyon-Azhar Ali: 151b/70r/0w/70.0 ***

Aus-Pak-2016: Lyon-Younis Khan:174b/98r/3w/32.7

Aus-Pak-2016: Lyon-Asad Shafiq: 88b/58r/1w/58.0

Aus-Pak-2016: Lyon-Babar Azam: 45b/24r/1w/24.0

Aus-Pak-2016: Lyon-Misbah-ul-Haq:57b/32r/1w/32.0

Total: 515b/282r/6w/47.0

Against Pakistan, recently, Lyon kept a reasonable control over the scoring rate and bowled well against Younis Khan. However, the off-spinner was not as effective against Azhar Ali.

12. Lyon getting the edge over Kohli in India

Ind-Aus-2013: Lyon-Kohli: 124b/75r/3w/25.0

It seems quite surprising that Lyon kept Kohli under check in India. A low average of 25.0 and a good strike rate of 41 balls per wicket indicate that Kohli came off second best against Lyon. However, that was Kohli version 0.3, not the current version 2.0. Incidentally, Lyon had similar figures against Tendulkar, albeit at the end of his career. This contest reads 107b/76r/3w/25.3. Lyon also dismissed Pujara twice.

13. Lyon taken to the cleaners by Dhoni

Ind-Aus-2013: Lyon-Dhoni: 109b/127r/0w/127.0 ***

This was one of the highlights of the 2013 series: the manner in which Dhoni destroyed Lyon. No dismissal and a scoring rate of seven runs per over. Most of this slaughter was done in the first Test in Chennai, which set the tone for the series. Maybe Lyon would be happy not to see Dhoni this time around. Is there anyone who would attack Lyon now? Possibly, Kohli himself. Vijay was almost as dominating against Lyon in 2013: 126b/89r/0w/89.0.

14. Umesh Yadav, not so effective against England top-order batsmen

Ind-Eng-2016: Yadav-Cook: 134b/76r/0w/76.0 ***

Ind-Eng-2016: Yadav-Hameed: 113b/35r/1w/35.0

Ind-Eng-2016: Yadav-Root: 125b/79r/1w/79.0

Ind-Eng-2016: Yadav-Stokes: 104b/40r/1w/40.0

Ind-Eng-2016: Yadav-Buttler: 39b/25r/0w/25.0 ***

Ind-Eng-2016: Yadav-Bairstow: 65b/29r/1w/29.0

Ind-Eng-2016: Yadav-Jennings: 69b/32r/0w/32.0 ***

Total: 649b/316r/4w/79.0

Yadav was quite ineffective, despite the fact that the pitches were not dust bowls, which the Australians might encounter. The early winter meant that there was some assistance available for the pace bowlers. However, he captured very few top-order wickets. The late-order wickets Yadav captured to help India win the Vizag and Chennai Tests do not cover up this lack of penetration with the newer cherry. Against the top order, Yadav conceded 79 runs and needed 27 overs per wicket.

15. Shami, also not effective against England top-order batsmen

Ind-Eng-2016: Mohd. Shami-Cook: 107b/45r/1w/45.0

Ind-Eng-2016: Mohd. Shami-Hameed: 143b/57r/0w/57.0 ***

Ind-Eng-2016: Mohd. Shami-Stokes: 104b/60r/0w/60.0 ***

Ind-Eng-2016: Mohd. Shami-Root: 54b/31r/1w/31.0

Ind-Eng-2016: Mohd. Shami-Bairstow:70b/17r/1w/17.0

Total: 478b/210r/3w/70.0

Shami was slightly better than Umesh Yadav. To capture a top-order wicket, Shami conceded 70 runs and needed 27 overs.

16. Yasir Shah almost totally ineffective against Australian top-order

Aus-Pak-2016: Yasir Shah-Renshaw: 130b/103r/1w/103.0

Aus-Pak-2016: Yasir Shah-Khawaja: 136b/113r/1w/113.0

Aus-Pak-2016: Yasir Shah-Smith: 235b/140r/3w/ 46.7

Aus-Pak-2016: Yasir Shah-Handscomb:146b/116r/0w/116.0 ***

Aus-Pak-2016: Yasir Shah-Warner: 95b/115r/0w/115.0 ***

Total: 742b/587r/5w/117.4

For all the hype with which Yasir Shah went into the Australia Test series, he didn’t deliver and dragged Pakistan down with him. He got the measure of Smith, but failed miserably against the other four batsmen, conceding over 100 runs to each of these players. Nearly 120 runs and 150 balls per wicket is very revealing indeed. Three other cheaper wickets did not make up for this carnage. This dismantling should give heart to the Australian batsmen, notwithstanding the location change.

17. Starc’s mixed series, at home, against Pakistan’s batsmen

Aus-Pak-2016: Starc-Younis Khan:149b/ 89r/0w/89.0 ***

Aus-Pak-2016: Starc-Azhar Ali: 215b/119r/2w/59.5

Aus-Pak-2016: Starc-Asad Shafiq: 125b/ 57r/3w/19.0

Aus-Pak-2016: Starc-Babar Azam: 51b/ 23r/1w/23.0

Aus-Pak-2016: Starc-Misbah-ul-Haq: 37b/ 16r/0w/16.0 ***

Aus-Pak-2016: Starc-Sami Aslam: 69b/ 29r/1w/29.0

Total: 646b/333r/7w/47.6

Surprisingly, despite playing at home, Starc was not effective against the Pakistan top-order batsmen. An average of 47.6 runs conceded per wicket and a poor strike rate of 15 overs are revealing. However, Starc finished the series with 14 wickets, including seven lower order ones, at 34. Starc is the leading Australian bowler and cannot be satisfied with six top-order wickets in three Tests at a huge cost. He has to have a much better series in India to let Australia have a chance of retaining the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

The following six factors would have a major bearing on the outcome of the 2016-17 series:

1. How Steven Smith fares against Jadeja. Something like “200 balls/120 runs/1-2 wicket(s)” would mean that Smith has come out ahead and Australia can reap the benefits. If Smith goes the way of Clarke or Cook and finishes like “200 balls/80 runs/5-6 wickets”, the main battle will be lost for Australia.

2. Do the Australian openers give away their wickets cheaply to the Indian opening bowlers? They need to have at least six substantial partnerships in the four Tests.

3. Would any Indian batsman succeed in attacking Lyon? What Dhoni did in 2013, someone has to do now. Kohli could very well do that. However, he is too important a wicket for India to bat in an all-out attacking style against Lyon. Neither Karun Nair (if he plays) nor Rahane would also risk doing this, while trying to cement their careers.

4. Would Starc trouble the Indian batsmen sufficiently enough to capture 15 or more wickets? Quite tough, since the pitches which will greet the Australians are likely to be the dry, crumbling ones.

5. There is no doubt that Ashwin will capture a good number of wickets. However, how will he bowl to the trio of Warner, Smith and Handscomb? He has to emerge on top in this multi-pronged confrontation for India to succeed.

6. What would Warner’s series rating be at the end of the tour? On a scale of 1 (awful) to 10 (out-of-the-world), if the rating is 7 or greater, Australia would do very well. If around 5, Australia might draw the series. But, if 3 or below, India might well have swamped the series 3-0 or better.

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