The key to India's spin success in Nagpur is versatility


R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, and Axar Patel finished what now appears to be a routine day at the park after defeating yet another team, this time Australia, in just one session at home.

The Nagpur pitch had received a lot of attention prior to the game for its preparation and dry areas outside the left-off hander's stump, a concern that ultimately had little bearing on the playing surface. But the way it actually played was completely different from what had been anticipated. The track had little bounce for the pacers, there were tough areas emerging outside the offstump for a left-hander on one end, and it was a turner.

However, there was a strategy to play on it, which included elements like playing from the crease, on the backfoot, and playing late, as was visible in India's batting and briefly during Australia's batting innings. In a nod to traditional Test cricket strategies, players like Rohit Sharma, Jadeja, Axar, Marnus Labuschagne, and Steve Smith all used these elements in their own unique ways to find a way to stay at the crease and score runs.

The spinners also had to adjust their approach to this pitch, so it wasn't just the batsmen who had to adjust. Nathan Lyon, for example, gave up his signature lines outside the off-stump and over the wicket in favor of going around the stumps and attempting to capitalize on straighter lines, but with limited success. There were runs to be taken every time he overpitched from that angle, and Rohit took full advantage of them to reach his 120. While lacking the consistency of more seasoned competitors, debutant Todd Murphy, a different style of offspinner than Lyon, was able to find greater success with a more natural line and tempo for the surface.

One of the main disparities between the two teams turned out to be India's spinners' capacity to adapt to these circumstances and achieve success at the rate they did.

After collecting his five-fer, Ashwin made a passing reference to the adjustments he had made in order to encourage the hitters to push the ball farther so that the edges could be used. He edged David Warner's second cover drive exactly as he had Usman Khawaja, and he did not hesitate to do so even after being hammered for back-to-back boundaries by Warner.

It was one of the few signs that India's seasoned spinners had taken a different path while still arriving at their target. In order to keep the LBW in play, Ravindra Jadeja never attempted an over-the-wicket line to the left-handers. Instead, he operated on the straighter lines from around the wicket, and it worked beautifully for him the entire time. Due to India's primary strategy of attacking the stumps rather than attempting close-range catches on a slow wicket, the demons of the rough outside off were at least partially defeated.

That being the case, even Rohit was a little taken aback by Australia's collapse. "I considered the pitch to be strong. We were ready for a demanding day of bowling and session after session spent on the field. We never anticipated that they would lose a session to bowling. Because, as you could see, the pitch was progressively slower. Yes, I was a little surprised because the pitch didn't have a lot of bounce "During the post-game presser, he added.

The fact that India's spinners were able to adjust to the conditions at Nagpur, though, did not surprise him. When asked what it was like to captain this spin trio at his disposal, he responded, "It's like captaining Cummins, Hazlewood, and Starc in Australia. "Pretty comparable, because when you have players with the caliber like Jadeja, Axar, and Ash—you know, having grown up playing cricket in India for so many years, growing up playing on fields like these—you know, growing up playing on surfaces like these is always a blessing.

"The circumstances are favorable, to be sure, but you must move to take advantage of them since they favor both teams. Because the circumstances are the same for everyone, regardless of the team we play. But what makes them truly unique is their ability to emerge from the pitch and draw something from it. They have experience playing on surfaces like this and know exactly what to do, where to hit, and how to maintain pressure."

He also noted that he was focused on giving Australia no room to maneuver. When Virat was captain and I was a player, I observed one thing: no matter what, even if we don't get a wicket, that pressure has to be present in order for the opposition to make a mistake. When Virat was the captain and these guys were bowling, I discovered it. Applying pressure is all I'm attempting to do at the moment.

"Avoid getting overly optimistic that the wicket will appear on every ball. That's not how it will happen. There is nothing like it if it occurs. However, we must recognize that it won't happen every time. You only need to persevere, keep passing the ball to the proper spots, and let the field work in your favor."

With even more sarcasm, India's captain added that using the spinners when they were needed was the hardest part of his job. The fact that they are all reaching their milestones makes it a little difficult. Jadeja, who has 249 wickets, was requesting the ball from me while saying, "mereko ball de." Ashwin was close to having five wickets when he said, "I want to bowl yaar." As a result, working with these guys presents a difficulty for me because I don't fully understand the milestones, but they are quite aware of them. So that is the difficulty of leading people rather than directing them.

"All of the players are top-notch, and once more, whatever end is more advantageous, all spinners naturally choose to bowl from that end. I'm under constant pressure to choose the best solution for the right person. It's difficult, but I try to play a tiny match-up game occasionally, as in Ash matches up well against left-handers. Ravindra Jadeja and Axar have incredible match-ups against right-handers, so it's not like he can't get right-handers out. However, he has a terrific match-up versus left-handers. So as I rotate them, I try to keep these in mind "explained he.

On a more somber note, Rohit also identified the factor that contributed to Ashwin's success over the years. Rohit mentioned Ashwin's adaptability while also praising his skill set and range of play.

"If you do see him, he keeps getting better. [pause] I won't say he's an improved bowler because he's always been good, but he seems like a different bowler now. But every time he plays Test cricket, he appears to be a different bowler; that's what good bowlers do. They strive to improve and go to the next level."

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