Bowlers under the sword in Australia

Although spinners have rarely found outstanding success in One-Day Internationals held in Australia, of late, the pacemen, too, have suffered as runs have flown heavily.

Ravichandran Ashwin wasn't selected for the last three ODIs after his indifferent showing in the first two matches.   -  K. R. Deepak

Former Australian captain and television pundit Mark Taylor was spot on while summing up the five-match ODI series before he called upon the Man of the Match, Manish Pandey, Player of the Series, Rohit Sharma and the two captains, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Steve Smith for the customary post match and series ceremony. He said the series was dominated by the batsmen and 3159 runs were scored.

Most observers of the game are far from surprised by the batsmen-friendly pitches rolled out for the series because they had seen it all during last year’s ICC Cricket World Cup matches played in Australia.

The idea was always to make sure that the ball did not seam excessively off the wicket, bounce alarmingly or offer turn to the spinners; this is why the Indian tour management did not find a place for off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin (9-0-68-2 at Perth and 10-0-60-0 at Brisbane) in all five matches, especially after he went wicketless in the second ODI at Brisbane.

Australia themselves did not choose a specialist spinner for the first three matches at Perth, Brisbane and Melbourne, and off-spinner Nathan Lyon had a forgettable match in Canberra (10-0-76-1) and in Sydney (8-0-58-0). In fact, Lyon has played only ten ODI matches for Australia as against 52 Test matches in which he has taken 185 wickets at 33.42.

In fact, spinners plying the trade of turning the ball from off to leg have not been a real hit and game changers in ODI matches played in Australia. The emphasis has always been to choose a batsman who can also bowl a few overs of off-spin like Andrew Symonds, Marlon Samuels, David Hussey and Glenn Maxwell. Australia’s Peter Taylor is the highest wicket taker with 77 in 61 matches. Most off-spinners among the 123 of them (824 wickets in 1786 matches) have cost their team heavily on Australian pitches with the average being 38.35.

Leg-spinners fare better

The 54 left-arm spinners who have bowled in ODIs in Australia have been more inferior, taking just about 402 wickets in 848 matches at an average of 40.87. Former Australian captain Alan Border is the highest with 37 wickets in the 177 matches he played at home. Here again, teams have managed with the all-rounders like Darren Lehmann, Ravi Shastri, Michael Clarke and Sanath Jayasuriya.

Juxtaposed against the finger spinners, the wrist spinners have obtained good purchase on the hard pitches that afford bounce too and in all, 41 spinners have taken 371 wickets in 542 matches at an reasonably impressive average of 32.98.

The leader of the leg-spin group is the mesmerising Shane Warne, with 136 wickets in 85 matches at 24.24, a strike rate of 34.93 and economy rate of 69.40. He is followed by three Pakistanis — Shahid Afridi, Mushtaq Ahmed and Abdul Qadir. India’s Anil Kumble has taken 14 wickets in 13 ODI matches in Australia. As against the spinners, the fast bowlers and their ilk have taken over 4400 wickets in ODIs played in Australia.

Is the trend changing with the pitches being made for the batsmen to explode into action in order to provide entertainment? In the five-match series, India deployed 11 bowlers who took 27 wickets at 57.78 with a strike rate of 54.93 and economy rate of 105.19 and Australia used 10 bowlers, took 28 wickets at 55.43, with a strike rate of 53.36 and economy rate of 103.88.

John Hastings was the highest wicket taker with 10 in four matches at 21.50, but James Faulkner, who played all five matches, finished at five wickets at a costly 57.80 and Mitchell Marsh took three wickets at 65.67.

For India, apart from Ishant Sharma (9 wickets at 27.78 in four matches) and Jasprit Bumrah (2 wickets at 20 in one match (Sydney), none did anything to shout about. Left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja took three wickets in five matches at 96.

Of the bowlers, Ashwin, who has a decent ODI record overseas, has played seven ODIs against Australia in Australia and has returned only four wickets at 91.00, while Jadeja has played 11 against Australia in Australia and has taken only four wickets at 111.75. Both may have bowled under pressure with the seamers not able to bring the Australians under pressure, except during the opening ODI at Perth. They got no purchase from the pitch.

Gujarat’s Axar Patel would wonder why he was not given a chance when Gurkeerat Mann and Rishi Dhawan were given three chances each.