Former South African skipper Graeme Smith has offered some crucial advice for the Indian openers, who have been struggling to counter English pace attack in the ongoing Test series, saying the batters must have some patience as they build their innings. India paired Vijay and Dhawan in the first Test, Vijay and Rahul in the second and Dhawan and Rahul in the third.
So far in the five-match Test series, Indian openers have failed to add a century stand with Shikhar Dhawan's 44 in the third Test the top score by an Indian opener so far.
Smith told Cricbuzz, “For an opening batter I think it's a must (to wait for the ball to come to you). Some guys probably have better cover drives than me but until you're in, against the swinging ball you want to try and take the lowest risk options to get yourself in. Generally, the way I felt as a left-hander was lining myself up to punch the ball back at the bowler. Command that off stump area.”
The Proteas great further added, “If it was outside off stump then leave well; if he gave me an opportunity to cut then make sure I would take advantage of it; if it was straight then I'd take advantage of it. Then as you get in, you can look to play the cover drive, open up a few more scoring areas. Unless the wicket looked flat and it wasn't swinging, I was setting myself up to hit the ball back at the bowler, leaving well and looking to cut. Those were my early first scoring options.”
On how to counter James Anderson’s attack in England, Smith suggested, “With Jimmy, I thought his inswinger would be the most effective delivery to someone like me but he changed tactics and used a lot of away swingers at me, which I actually preferred. For one, it pulled his length back – whenever he bowled his away swingers at me it was more back of a length than full. And I also used to pick his away swingers quite easily out of his hands. When he bowled his in-swingers he's at the stumps, his length is always a touch fuller. I found that more challenging.”
Smith signed off by saying, “Mindset is key. Making sure against England in particular that you don't allow them to get on a roll. Like most teams they've got a bit of sting but if you get through it then options will open up. The teams I have faced, I always found their motto generally was to try and hold the run rate. But once you got through that initial phase and the partnerships start to build, they never really had a Plan B. Especially if the ball doesn't swing for them or if you can negate that then Plan B is gone. Then you're in and you're building the partnerships.”