By Khurram Habib
New Delhi, Dec 18 (IANS) India opener Prithvi Shaw, picked ahead of the experienced KL Rahul and Shubman Gill, fell to a second-ball duck on the first day of the first Test at the Adelaide Oval to vindicate the doubts on his technique raised by former batting maestros Sunil Gavaskar and Allan Border.
Shaw tried to drive a Mitchell Starc delivery away from his body but played it on to his stumps.
The right-handed batsman had failed to get a fifty in both the warm-up games prior to the first Test, making just 62 in four innings at an average of 15.5, prompting both Border and Gavaskar to say that with a loose technique he shouldn’t be playing the first Test. Border had, in fact, said that he plays too many shots outside his off-stump.
Shaw has been failing consistently over the past couple of months and was even dropped from the Delhi Capitals (DC) side at one point during the Indian Premier League (IPL). In his last seven innings for DC, he got three ducks and managed just one double digit score which was only 10. His aggregate was just 30 in those seven innings on slower, subcontinental-like surfaces.
“I think in Australia the biggest challenge is that you can’t drive every ball as the bounce is a bit more,” former India opener Wasim Jaffer told IANS. “You have to be very sure of which ball to play and you need to leave a lot of deliveries. There are many deliveries that you can drive in India but won’t be able to do that in Australia because the bounce is more.”
Jaffer himself endured a difficult time in Australia during the 2007-08 series as he fell to the drive on a few occasions. That was his first tour to the country with the Indian team and says with the benefit of hindsight that batsmen need to check their drives.
“I think he has to quickly realise that he cannot keep playing his shots and be careful with vertical shots. He needs to play close to his body and tighten his technique. Having said that, it is just one innings. If it would have come off, people would have praised him. But yeah, he needs to tighten his technique,” Jaffer added.
The flaw in Shaw’s technique has become so predictable that former Australia captain Ricky Ponting, who had been analysing and helping him sort it out as head coach at DC, mentioned the gap in his technique that let him down on Thursday just prior to the delivery he was dismissed on. As Starc took off to bowl the second ball of the match that dismissed Shaw, Ponting said on Channel 7 that the batsman plays away from his body and that Aussies would try to bring the ball back in.
Ponting had incidentally said on TV a couple of months back during an IPL game in the first half of the tournament that Shaw has been working on his technique by trying to move a bit to the off-stump, opening for himself space on the leg-side to score runs and correcting a small error that was seemingly causing him trouble.
It paid dividends early in the tournament as he made two fifties and one 40-odd in the first games he played. After that it all fell apart for him.
The Mumbai batsman also had an ordinary outing in New Zealand in February making 16, 14, 54 and 14 across two Tests in the last Test series played by India before this.
But the fact that the rest of the Indian batsmen failed as well in New Zealand may have prompted India to pick him for the Adelaide Test. Shaw’s average of 24.5 in that series was just a shade lower than Mayank Agarwal’s 25.5 and Cheteshwar Pujara’s 25, India’s two top run-getters in that series.
His competitors for the opening spot, KL Rahul and Shubman Gill had fared better in recent times. Rahul was the top-scorer in the IPL which though is played in an altogether different format. But his confidence was high. Gill had done better in the two warm-up games aggregating 127 in four innings at 31.75.
Former England opening batsman Nick Knight also pointed out on TV that his technique faulty saying that on bouncier Australian surfaces you need to play with tighter technique.