Brad Hogg on why Ashwin, Jadeja have Australia in a spin

By, Mumbai
Feb 24, 2023 09:24 PM IST

The key to the series was always going be how Smith and Labuschagne, Australia’s two most accomplished batters, would counter the spin threat.

After R Ashwin managed to tease and torment the Aussie batters Down Under in 2020-21 to help India to win the Border-Gavaskar series, cricket followers were waiting to see what response Steve Smith & Co would come up with.

Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin during the 2nd Test.(PTI) PREMIUM
Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin during the 2nd Test.(PTI)

Against any opposition, Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are a handful in Indian conditions and the key to the series was always going to be how Smith and Labuschagne, Australia’s two most accomplished batters, countered the spin threat.

In the first two Tests, it hasn't been much of a battle. In the series opener at Nagpur, Jadeja walked away with all the glory, accounting for Labuschagne in both essays and Smith in the first innings while Ashwin continues to have Smith’s number, getting him out in both innings in the second Test.

While Australia see Ashwin as the main threat, Jadeja has done more damage in the series. The left-arm spinner has come back stronger from a long injury-induced layoff to bag 17 wickets and lead the wicket-takers chart. Overall, Jadeja has got Labuschagne thrice and Smith once.

So, what is working for Jadeja? It could be the case of a well-rested shoulder and fingers which is giving him the extra nip. Former Australia spinner Brad Hogg, who is in Mumbai on a coaching assignment with the Reliance One team, says: “It’s just the fact that he is been out of the game a long time, he is energised. When you come back and you have missed it, you get excited to play again."

Jadeja doesn’t spin the ball as much as Ashwin, he doesn’t have the overspin either but he attacks the stumps and it skids a little bit more, that's where the Saurashtra bowler comes into play feels Hogg.

Smith has scores of 37, 25*, 0 and 9 in his four innings, Marnus Labuschagne's numbers are 49, 17, 18 and 35 – every time they have been gobbled up by Jadeja or Ashwin. It has been the biggest factor in India gaining a 2-0 advantage. Their poor run has broken the back of their team’s batting.

Analysing how the two experienced spinners have gone about their bowling, Hogg agreed that Smith has been put under pressure. “They have been able to put pressure on Smith. No matter who you are, the extra pressure put on you is going to be pretty tough,” said Hogg.

“They just haven’t really allowed them to feel that comfortable out in the middle. They are made to work hard for their runs. Basically, it was just bowling in good areas, putting pressure on them and not allowing them to use their feet comfortably.

“Labuschagne is probably one of the better batters (in this series)... I am pretty sure he is going to come out and make a big impact in the next Test match. You have to remember the ball from Jadeja went under his bat in the second innings last Test. So, he was a little unlucky, but he is the one who has been able to handle the pressure a lot. And, Smith's been the one that has handled the pressure most of the time, just that the shot that he played the other day, sweep shot, his weight was back rather than forward, normally when Australian batters sweep, they get their weight forward, head over the ball. It wasn’t there.”

For Hogg, one of the examples of how well Ashwin and Jadeja have bowled as a team was on display in Australia’s second innings in Delhi. Labuschagne got off to a brisk start with five fours in a 50-ball 35 but then Ashwin changed his line of attack to build the pressure on him.

Highlighting Ashwin’s role who has claimed 14 wickets so far, Hogg said: “I just felt there was a period there (in the second innings) when Ashwin was coming round the wicket to Labuschagne and then he came back over the wicket and started bowling close to the stumps. If you remember the previous couple of overs, he got a boundary each over, (but) he didn’t find it as easy when he came over the wicket. All of a sudden that put pressure on both Australian batters when Jadeja came into the mix. That was just good team bowling. Just the tactics of India were sensational and Australia didn’t have the answers.”

In contrast, Australia's spin attack has limited success. Lyon had a burst in the first innings at Delhi but his overall tally is eight wickets after bowling the maximum number of overs in the series - 90. Hogg said, Lyon is not bowling as side-on as he normally bowls. "Lyon has been a gem, he has been a major player over the years, I just think at this stage he is blocking himself off at the moment, he is not side on as he normally is, that is something probably he can look at. I just think, he is a lot more side on when he is really troubling the opposition batters."


Hogg said as much as the game is about the skills, the importance of having fun while playing can’t be over-emphasised. He felt, Australia will be better off taking a cue from the India camp and ease up on the field.

As an example of a happy dressing room, the former left-arm wrist-spinner bowler spoke about Axar Patel, who has hardly got a bowl due to the success of Jadeja, picking up just one wicket. “One thing I am really liking is his (Axar’s) attitude towards the team. I also remember about Bangladesh (on India’s last tour) when I was commentating, he said it is about what he could do for the team, not about him getting five wickets even though he has been the star of the show over the last couple of Test matches. That’s what I am liking about this Indian team over the last five years... the way they are grouped together. When teams like that are having fun, are happy, they are going to be hard to beat. Australia got to find a little bit of fun in the way they play, enjoy it, be happy as a group, and work out a way -- this is the way I am going to play spin, I am going to take those risks, I am going to go after it, I am going to put pressure on India, that’s the only way of going about it.”

“For me how they turn around now after panicking in the second innings at Delhi, what have they learnt from it? that is the interesting thing moving forward.”

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