Aaron Finch, Steve Smith's unconventional plan to deal with Rohit Sharma's bowlers
Finch and Smith take a couple of deliveries, assess the condition and then start scoring in the usual areas. This, however, might see a slight change from the India series and has a good chance of carrying on till the World Cup.
Finding unusual ways to score is the usual for Glenn Maxwell. His reverse scoops, lap shots, and slog sweeps take hours of practice in the nets against different bowlers. Australia's top-order batters Aaron Finch and Steve Smith, though different in nature, are way more orthodox than Maxwell. They take a couple of deliveries, assess the condition and then start scoring in the usual areas. This, however, might see a slight change from the India series and has a good chance of carrying on till the World Cup. Finch and Smith have made a conscious effort to go the Maxwell way, at least against the spinners.
In their first two full net sessions on Saturday and Sunday, both Finch and Smith spent hours trying to master the art of the various versions of the sweep shot. Keeping in mind the variety of the Indian spin attack of leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal, off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and left-arm spinner Axar Patel, Finch asked Adam Zampa, Glenn Maxwell and Aston Agar to bowl to him.
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"I'll have to get it finer than that to get it past (the fielders)" said the Australian T20I captain after playing what appeared to be a fairly well-timed reverse sweep against left-arm spinner Agar. But Finch was not particularly pleased. The idea was not to knock the cover of the ball but to get the ball in unusual areas of the field and score. The next delivery from Maxwell was on his pads, Finch sat down and scooped it. "That's more like it, don't let the feet come in the way of your bat," quipped Maxwell. Finch nodded. After all, the words came from one of the finest exponents of the scoop and lap.
The recently-retired from ODIs Australia opener didn't get the desired results always - he lost his stumps a couple of times to Tim David and Maxwell while attempting a slog sweep and a lap - but that didn't ditter him from keep on trying the sweeps and reverse laps.
"In these (Indian) conditions, you are always looking to improve and improvise. The strength of everyone in this team is their eagerness to learn something new and grow. I think we have seen in the last 10 years how much the game has developed. As players, you have to constantly look at ways to improve, play new shots and try and stay ahead of the game. You have to find ways, play these shots (sweeps, laps and reverse) to be able to score in unusual areas or have more options when you are out in the middle)," Finch said on the eve of the first T20I in Mohali.
Smith, who was next in line to practice the sweep and reverse scoops against the Australian spinners and also against the local net bowlers, was far more focussed on picking the length rather than premeditating. Barely a couple of months ago, he, in an interview with Cricbuzz had mentioned that sweep is not his primary option when facing spinners in the subcontinent.
“For me, it’s more when the ball is spinning into me. Just trying to negate the bat-pad as much as possible. Off a good length, when the ball is spinning in, I probably prefer getting down the wicket or getting deeper to play off the back foot. And if it’s a big spin and bounce then probably the sweep is an option for me. But sweep is not my first kind of option," he had said. But the former Australia captain was referring to Test cricket. When it comes to the shortest format of the game, he is ready to shed the 'Mr fix-it' tag and play freely. The sweep shot is certain to be a dominating factor in this new version of Smith.
When asked about Smith trying to play the sweep shot, Finch said the modern-day great is making an effort to add new scoring options to his game. "It's nothing like we have talked about in particular to play the sweep shot in the dressing room but it was a practice for what the guys may face in the middle. You never wanna turn up in an international match and play shots that you have not practised. Some guys in the team have been trying to add the sweep and laps to their game just to keep the options open," Finch said.
"Yeah, he is free to play however he feels like, most likely he will bat at No.3 in this series with Mitchell Marsh being out. We know the quality Steve has got, he is one of the best players who has ever played the game over all formats. We know the skill he has got and the game sense and the tactical mouse he has got, we are very confident that regardless of what role he has to play within the structure of the squad, he can do that," he added.