Spin for Aussies a recipe for disaster
Former Australia batsman Justin Langer has revealed the famous drought-breaking series win in India in 2004 was the highlight of his celebrated 104-Test career.
The threat of spin, soaring temperatures and the local cuisine has made India the Australians’ least successful foreign country to tour, making winning there a decade ago that much sweeter for the Perth Scorchers coach.
“From an Australian point of view, the most difficult thing for Australians is to come and play in India,” Langer told clt20.com.
“When we won the Test series here in 2004, it was like the Mount Everest of my career.
“That was the greatest moment of my career because you always recognise how hard it is to win in India.”
Before 2004, Australia hadn’t won in the subcontinent since 1969, when Bill Lawry led his chargers to a 3-1 series win thanks largely to Ashley Mallett’s 28 wickets and Keith Stackpole’s 368 runs opening the batting.
The biggest hurdle for Australia, and most teams travelling to India, has been countering the onslaught of spin bowling on wickets that are designed to turn and bounce from the outset.
It’s a puzzle that Cricket Australia is desperate to solve, and is sparing no expense to help better prepare its players for the challenges the subcontinent presents, from contemplating importing Indian soil to constructing hybrid pitches made with rubberised synthetic grass under soil and clay.
“No matter how much you try and prepare, it is very difficult,” Langer said on playing spin in India.
“It’s like when India come to Australia, we have bouncier and faster wickets, which gets harder for them to play.
“It’s almost like Indians have chillies from a very early age, therefore if you eat chilli it doesn’t really bother you.
“But if we eat chilli, it burns our mouth, which is the same while playing spin.
“We are brought up on fast and bouncy wickets that swing around and not so much brought up on spinning wickets.
“So when we come up here, it’s like eating chilli and it is hard to get used to it.
“I know in Australian cricket there is a focus in becoming better off playing spin bowling, but it is something that is going to take a long time to develop.”
Australia’s weakness against spin bowling was once again brought to the fore during the shock loss to Zimbabwe in the triangular one-day series held in Harare last month.
But coach Darren Lehmann says Australia is improving against the turning ball, and doesn’t expect opposition teams to discontinue preparing spin-friendly conditions when his team comes to town.
“A lot has to do with the wickets if you see some of the wickets going around,” Lehmann said before departing to the UAE on Sunday.
“There’s a big thing out there that we don’t play spin well. I think we do. We’re getting better at it.
“There are some quality spinners out there who make it difficult on the sort of tracks you come up against some times.
“If you’re playing Australia why would you play us on a fast, bouncy track? That’s just a fact of life.”