Kolkata: A crawling run-rate, along with the woeful form of their main batsman Steve Smith are the two main headaches for hosts Australia as they struggle to find the answers in time before the third Test starts against India at Sydney on January 7.
It’s a far cry from the space they were in after mauling India in the day-night first Test in Adelaide and Marnus Labuschagne - who has emerged one of the pillars of their batting line-up in Tests since his arrival in 2019 - felt the need to pick up the soft spot in Indian bowling to force the pace.
“I think they have been very disciplined in their bowling and their plans with both spin and pace. I think they have really held that straight line. That made us face a lot of balls, striking at about two runs an over. It is for us to make sure that there are going to be small opportunities for us to showing intent and attacking them,” Labuschagne said in an interaction with the media on Friday.
The right-handed South Africa-born batsman, who boasts of an average of close to 60 in a career spanning barely one and-a-half years, has aggregated just 129 runs in four innings in the series at an average of 32.25. Steve Smith, who slipped to third spot in ICC rankings while boasting of the best average among batsmen in red ball cricket, had been having an apalling run with an aggregate of just 10 in four innings.
Labuschagne said that the field placements with heavy emphasis on the leg-side and bringing fielders in play for catches has worked well for the Indians but he added that the Aussies will discover plans to put them under pressure.
“They have certainly come in with plans with straight fields - making sure they are not leaving stumps - and also having heavy a leg-side field which obviously slows your scoring rate down... they are always keeping those catchers in the game, so we have to come up with two things - we need to be very disciplined and have to come up with ways to put them under pressure,” added Labuschagne.
“For us it is making sure we continue to find ways to score runs. Like I said it doesn’t have to be pretty. We just have to keep grinding away. If we get in, we got to make sure we get big scores.”
Admitting that their plan will be to target certain bowlers, Labuschagne, however, refused to reveal specific plans. “I certainly don’t want to share the plans with you guys otherwise they will know exactly what is coming. But definitely we will talk about once again rotating the strike, finding your boundary options, the normal things you talk about facing any bowling attack. How you can get upper hand against a certain bowler at a certain time of the game. I think they are all the things we are always talking about make sure that when we come into the Test we are brave enough to take on those options when they arise,” added Labuschagne.
With opener Joe Burns dropped after twin failures with the bat in Melbourne, David Warner has returned to the squad and is racing to recover from a groin strain.
Although close with Queensland teammate Burns, Labuschagne said Warner’s presence would give Australia a real boost. “Someone with over 7,000 Test runs and averaging near-on 50, he’s a superb player,” said Labuschagne.
“I think he’s in that top calibre of player ... Just his energy that he will bring around the group and his energy in the field will be terrific.”