Sriram: Didn’t expect Kuldeep to play

Talking to Sportstar after the conclusion of a dramatic Test series, Australia’s spin bowling coach S. Sriram said, “We were not expecting Kuldeep to play. We had seen videos of him but did not actually think India would include him in the eleven for the final Test.”

Kuldeep Yadav derailed Australia by taking 4 wickets in the first innings.   -  REUTERS

Fielding young left-arm Chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav as the fifth bowler proved to be a master-stroke for India. The shock value of the ploy was acknowledged by an insider in the Aussie camp.

Talking to Sportstar after the conclusion of a dramatic Test series, Australia’s spin bowling coach S. Sriram said, “We were not expecting Kuldeep to play. We had seen videos of him but did not actually think India would include him in the eleven for the final Test.”

Sriram added, “He’s different, bowled very well in the first innings, was accurate and spun the ball. We were looking good for a 400-plus score but he took vital wickets.”

He said the difference between the two sides was just around 180 runs. “80 runs in Bengaluru and 100 in Dharamshala.”

Varying the pace

Sriram worked closely with the Aussie off-spinner Nathan Lyon and left-armer Steve O’ Keefe. He said, “Lyon varied his pace very well. He has over-spin and got bounce. His line was about two stumps outside the off-stump. He has learnt to bowl the straight delivery on a pitch offering turn.”

The former India cricketer elaborated, “The idea was to prevent the batsmen from sweeping him. If the batsmen began sweeping him then Lyon would have to bowl further up and his basic length would suffer.”

O’Keefe’s job, he said, was to bowl a lot of overs and contain the batsmen from one end. Sriram observed both Lyon and O’Keefe were quicker through the air in the first Test since the pitch in Pune offered considerable turn.

Lyon focussed on the rough outside the right-hander’s off-stump, created by left-arm fast bowler Mitchell Starc, in the second Test at Bengaluru where the bounce too was inconsistent.

Sriram said, “In fact, Ashwin bowled over the wicket, targeting the rough, even to the left-handers. The surface played slow in Ranchi, and the bounce was good in the final Test.”

The Indians handled spin better in the last two Tests, felt Sriram. “They started using the crease more and began playing the sweep. We knew Rahul swept the ball well but even Vijay, Pujara and Rahane started doing so.”

Sriram said Rahul was the most impressive among the Indian batsmen. “He went deep into the crease and played spinners on both sides of the wicket.”

A front-line batsman in his time, Sriram, who got along well with Aussie batting coach Graeme Hick, offered his inputs to the Aussie batsmen too.

Dissecting Smith’s batting

On Steve Smith’s batsmanship, Sriram said, “Smith batted with low hands, played the ball late, played a lot square of the wicket. He played the line, was prepared to get beaten outside the off-stump if the ball spun away from him. He was not afraid to drive Ashwin through covers against the turn.”

“The Australian batsmen played in front of their pads and with soft hands to avoid leg-before decision. Apart from Smith, I thought the young Matt Renshaw, allowing the ball to come to him, batted well against spin.”

Dwelling on the verbal spats, Sriram said, “India-Australia matches are high-octane games and there are bound to be a few such incidents.”

Sriram said he did not see the Smith ‘brain fade’ DRS incident in Bengaluru. “I was inside at that time. I do not think Smith, a humble person for all his achievements, is a guy who would do it deliberately.”

Asked about the Indian bowling, Sriram said, “Jadeja’s variations in pace have become a lot more subtle.”