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Marnus’ gambit strategy was to play spin while preparing for Ashwin.

Marnus' gambit strategy was to play spin while preparing for Ashwin.

As much as batting, Marnus Labuschagne just has one other passion. batting discussion He discusses his upcoming “Chess Game” with Ravichandran Ashwin, his adoration for the Indian off-spinner, and his game plan against Ashwin and the other Indian spinners in an in-depth interview on the eve of his debut Test visit of India.


Bangalore is where you are. You’ve been yearning to play a Test series in India for a very long time. Since when has it been on your mind?
Over millennia, the top batters have excelled at home. But the truly outstanding ones have achieved considerable success. India and England are likely the two biggest obstacles an Australian batter has while playing away from home. Your batting game will be most challenged by extreme swing and extreme spin. I only desired the Indian challenge because of it. In Australia, there may be a little bounce but not much spin, or bounce and spin, in cities like Adelaide and Sydney. You play on a few spinning wickets here and there. However, never pure spin of the kind we encountered in Galle versus Sri Lanka. That served as a good starting point for our series. It’s just one thing you’ve always wanted to put to the test.

Was your attention still on India in terms of what you could use from there while you were in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, despite the fact that it was on those pitches and the bowlers there?

Yes, without a doubt. Those in and of themselves were undoubtedly difficult tasks. The wickets in Sri Lanka were perhaps closer to the kind of fast-spinning ones we anticipate finding in India. I believe that knowing the bowlers you’re up against here in India is more important. Sajid Khan and Nauman, two Pakistani spinners, may not have been familiar to us (Ali). We definitely anticipated facing a lot more spinning wickets than what we actually did. Second, we were familiar with (Lasith) Embuldeniya from Sri Lanka, who only participated in the first Test. When he left, they procured a brand-new spinner (Prabath Jayasuriya). Although Ramesh Mendis is an offie, R Ashwin will be the threat in this situation. He had terrific variations in addition to a wonderful stock ball, whereas Mendis had a good stock ball but perhaps didn’t have the changes like Ashwin. Also unavailable to him were the wrist angle, seam angles, and similar features. You may be more aware of it in this situation because you are familiar with the bowlers. As a result, you are aware that Axar (Patel), (Ravindra) Jadeja, and Ashwin are the three, with Kuldeep (Yadav) perhaps serving as a late addition. For them, you get ready. From a spin perspective, you’re constantly thinking about that. That’s what keeps you thinking, in my opinion, because you’re asking yourself, “Okay, how am I going to attack Ashwin?” This is what he previously encountered. This is the bowling Jadeja has used in the past, how will I attack him?

The matchup between Ashwin and Steve Smith, in my opinion, represents the clash of two cricketing legends. However, the matchup between Ashwin and Marnus, which pits two of the greatest cricket theorists of all time against one another, is just as fascinating. And that’s a match that will really rile up someone like you—not just his bowling, but everything else that goes along with it?

(Chuckles) Without a doubt. That’s probably why I appreciate Ashwin so much. I believe his opinions of the game, his style of thinking, the way he creates overs, and the ways he tries to get you to leave a particular place. Additionally, he could not arrive there right away. He may so harass you on the inside edge for a while before bowling a ball that he undercuts, slides away from, and catches you at first slip. While the majority of bowlers will only attempt to bowl their best ball, he will continue to mix things up. And they might go around the wicket if you exert pressure on them and counter that finest ball. And their only other choice is to work you over while attempting to silence you and the scoreboard. Return you there.

But with Ashwin, it’s more like a game of chess. Few other spin bowlers are willing to bowl in a nasty manner like he is. He is prepared to bowl poorly in order to succeed. You saw it in Australia, where he simply bowled what we may refer to as “negative” lines, but it was fantastic cricket. You are preventing the batters from scoring. You are securing them with ties, ties, ties. And what he does so well is use the pressure he’s created there to attack your outer edge (like he did at the MCG). But it’s fantastic. As a result, Smudge and I played him really well when we moved to the SCG, came up with some excellent ideas, and perhaps dictated play a little bit more. as opposed to him controlling the game like he did in the first several games. Adelaide was undoubtedly a challenging surface since the pink ball slipped on fairly sharply. During the first two sessions, the MCG rotated a lot. As much consideration as he has put into attacking me, I believe the challenge is that he would have noticed how I swept and understood that whenever I did something, I was sweeping. I’d have to leave and make sure that my game is unpredictable and that he can’t read it when I’m sweeping or changing things around. That has improved me as a player since our previous match. And maybe this series will demonstrate that.

When you ask bowlers how they research the hitters they’ll be facing, Ashwin will often mention watching a lot of Marnus’ batting practise footage. How does observing or following a bowler differ for a batter?

I believe one is aware of his variety. This means that the first step is to know what you’re looking for. And it may not be seeing much of it. Knowing what you’re looking for is crucial, though. Knowing the seam angles, for example, as well as what he does on the crease can help you spot the overcut seam, the undercut seam, and the true undercut ball. In other words, approach him broad, square, and slowly. As you acquire a sense of and a read on that, you move in sync with him. You have a sense of it and can tell what he’s doing with each ball. He might go square if he wants to draw close. either attempt to get under your bat for the sweep ball, go wide, or try to throw over the top to nearly induce an in-swing before spinning in and catching you on the bat pad. If you begin to anticipate how he will approach you and what each of his balls is supposed to be doing, you will be able to sweep him or utilise your feet and a backfoot punch to put him under pressure. The field is then the thing for both of us. With the field, play chess. Try to increase your score options; that’s what’s good, right? He is making the same effort. He’s attempting to get you out by positioning his fielders in catching positions. And you’re attempting to remove his catchers from the contest.

As basic as it sounds, you play shots to push him to move his field.

Yes, that is what occurs. If the run rate increases, the bowler is once again under pressure. He should put up a little more of a fight. Therefore, he will either lose an attacking fielder or his defensive fielder. Whatever the choice, it generates a scoring possibility. because you can score and have one less catcher available to you in the game.
Once we get in Nagpur, you will undoubtedly enjoy the fight with Ashwin. But how much fun are you having just talking to me about the difficulty and figuring it out in practise sessions? How much do you enjoy the planning stage?

You can tell from our talks that I enjoy discussing the game. I’ve always believed that discussing the game and the opposition helps you to focus, therefore this is what I’m thinking. This is like writing things down instead of just thinking about it. Everyone claims that writing things down helps you remember them. The same holds true for when you’re discussing it. You consider many thoughts and ideas, and then you decide to actually talk to Smudge (Smith), Davey (Warner), and other individuals about it. You then state that this is how you feel in each location. Talk to Nathan (Lyon), which is also crucial. You know it’s hard for us batters. Therefore, you strive to communicate the knowledge back so that we may employ those skill sets to win us wickets when we play the opposition.

Like when you were trying to pick Todd Murphy’s brains the other day in Alur to get a bowler’s viewpoint on how you were playing off-spin.

Yes, that’s right.

Many foreign batters who come to India end up playing spin in their heads and frequently commit the error of failing to actually observe what the ball is doing. How crucial it is that you don’t overthink it, even if you do. In the end, all you need to do is concentrate on the ball you are facing right.

The problem, in my opinion, is that after all your preparation and practise, once the ball is in the air all your attention is on reading the ball and the play. Additionally, the wicket may have some influence on the speed at which you play. If the wicket is extremely spinning, you might need to go into third or fourth gear. You could just be able to bat and play normally if the wicket is decent. Simply begin your game. Overall, keeping an eye on the ball is essential, especially in this situation because of the spin. To predict what the ball will do, look at the seam’s angle. Give yourself the best chance to predict what will happen as the ball leaves the wicket. You may not always be right. You cannot anticipate whether it will slide or spin. But occasionally you can because you can see the seam’s angle or because you anticipate what will happen.

Nobody like Ashwin would be considered a mystery bowler. Unlike Rashid Khan or Sunil Narine, he doesn’t have any distinctive releases. However, he is a bowler with endless diversity. What’s the difference between facing him, and is he the kind of spinner whose seam position or release points can provide you information?

Without a doubt. In terms of off-spinning, I believe he is the most similar to a mystery spinner. because there are more indicators for you to consider. The majority of other off-spinners may have one or two, that over the top spinner, or a square spinner. That may be the case. After then, they might make a small use of the crease. However, Ashwin has a few more perspectives, attempts various load-ups, and comes wide, giving you more to look at. As a result, you may focus a little more attention on the ball since you are seeking for those variations. But when you’re playing against someone else, you nearly always have a good idea of where the ball will land and occasionally, you don’t even need to pay close attention because you simply know. Instead of attempting to see it in the air, you play it off the wicket.

So it almost seems like he sharpens your concentration.

Yeah, without a doubt.

Jadeja is another option, and even when these pitches aren’t turning square, she still poses a threat. He possesses the sliding spin that has been so problematic. Last time around, Steve Smith batted quite well against him. Where is it a difficulty for you to face him?

Jadeja is a fantastic bowler who excels when the circumstances are right. But once more, I’ve never had to deal with either of them under these circumstances. So, we must conduct an investigation. The way you play them in Australia is very different. You always have a little bit more time because you can play back a little bit more easily and the ball doesn’t slide off the wicket as quickly. It will be fantastic. We’ll need to exercise courage at various points during our innings. We nailed several batting strategies in the two series prior to that (against Pakistan and Sri Lanka). There are two separate techniques. At times, we must have the courage to play the game. Other times, we need to check to see what we might have needed to accomplish during the second Test in Galle. We ought to have received 450–500. In the opening innings, it was a respectable wicket. Yes, as the game progressed, it got worse and a couple balls started to explode. Overall though, it was a decent wicket if you could get through those balls. We also had two players score 100, but we fell short of the large total.

Speaking of strategies for playing spin, Steve Smith insisted in a conversation I conducted with him prior to the Sri Lanka trip that he would be satisfied to occasionally get hit on the outside edge of the bat until he was never hit on the inside edge, particularly while playing left-arm spinners. Does that apply to…

Yes, without a doubt. I don’t know if everyone agrees with it, but that is also my theory. excellent outside edge You may occasionally encounter one that spins and cuts you off. It’s alright. However, you don’t want to be physically hurt internally. And sometimes it’s simpler to say than do. Sometimes it takes some time to get acclimated to the ball’s harsh slide. absolute earliest. We don’t want to suffer an inside edge defeat.

Where does Jadeja fit in terms of choosing spinners?

He seems to me to be a little bit faster, a little bit more flat, and the seam angle is a little bit more extreme. He also becomes more square as he advances, obviously. His accuracy and pace are his strengths. Axar is more square than that. He approaches from wide, so his primary focus will be on the pads. additionally the one that enters from there. Therefore, starting your innings on a harder wicket will be difficult once more. But after you get beyond that difficult stretch and the first 20 to 30 balls, things get easier. As you develop a sense, you start moving more fluidly and into positions more quickly. Whatever it means for each person, having a clear goal for how to enter the game is incredibly important.
Then, like you and Steve did at the SCG against Ashwin, the emphasis shifts to being proactive and dictating terms. Is that the critical next step once you get a feel and a rhythm?

You can’t be reluctant, in my opinion. You should come out and try to rule right now. Aim for positivity. Because, you know, you can’t wait and consider giving yourself 20 balls if these circumstances are really extreme. In Galle, we were reminded of that once more. Even if you try to give yourself 20 balls, Travis Head will only need to spin one of them through the gate to end the game. On some wickets, though, you can take your time and first assess your capabilities. As soon as you arrive, you’ll know. However, you don’t want to leave and say, “I’ll have a look,” only to find yourself back in the shed shortly after.

Did you watch a lot of Test cricket on television while growing up in India as a cricket novice, whether it was Australia or any other side competing here and especially those who did well here?

I recall witnessing Michael Clarke play well in 2004. The wickets probably didn’t spin as much in the early going, but they did when the game picked up speed. To the left-handers, Harbhajan [Singh] frequently bowled from above the wicket while attempting to spin the ball across. Many off-spinners would undoubtedly consider that their Plan Z. People don’t do that much nowadays. That was something Muralitharan frequently did. He and Harbhajan both undoubtedly possessed the doosra. I presume they did it for that reason. Now, left-handers are attacked from around the wicket with sliding in, sliding in, and then spin. The contest has altered. Additionally, I believe that occasionally spinners bowl a little bit faster. I must avoid generalisation. That’s just a gut instinct. The game takes place in a unique setting. Teams now play a little bit more defence. Everyone else is out, except for your attacking fielders. There were times when all that happened was attacks, attacks, and more attacks. Therefore, even if you bowled well, teams were still able to score rapidly and set up the field, resulting in 330 points.

Every time a team visits India, this question is asked. Sweeping is optional. Do you have a sweeping philosophy, particularly in this area?

There’s no denying how I played spin in the past, and the sweep is a shot I always carry. But once more, it comes down to playing it at the appropriate moment and employing it well to influence the game. It’s a fascinating query. They would have known from my history of playing spin that I swept frequently in Sri Lanka. The video is accessible online. They will undoubtedly use it, but how I use it and how they respond to it will determine how I play the game moving forward. We’ll have to wait and watch how they handle it. They might attempt to lure me by leaving it open. That is all that is seen.

The reverse sweep works the same way, too?

Without a doubt. Without a doubt. Once more, it’s about using field manipulation to your advantage and attempting to increase your scoring choices. The game revolves around that. That is the purpose of the entire game of chess. In order to win this series and play the game, you sometimes just have to be daring. And other times, we’ll need to exercise extreme self-control and seize every chance to achieve a tremendously high score. Like we did in Galle, we don’t leave anything in the bank.

A stroke that Sachin Tendulkar frequently used to perform on turning wickets. He would play a paddle sweep with a bat that was extremely vertical and nearly smack the ball past the wicketkeeper. It appears to be no longer there. Would that be a sensible course of action?

I believe such shot is more commonly made when the ball slides down a leg. Many guys sweep on line, of course. They go to sweep after noticing it down there. And the ball keeps moving forward, with nearly their assistance. Smudger also occasionally plays that. You can’t, in my opinion, plan to carry it through. The bowler almost makes that stroke easier for you.

Ashwin would almost certainly bowl to you with a leg-slip, leg gully, or maybe even a backward short-leg, which he frequently used in Australia. Can you use the sweep properly to move them out of the way? Or, can you pull pranks on them since they don’t usually leave?

I believe it will be evident. You need to defend or create strategies for obtaining dot balls if you believe those fielders won’t move or if the scoring rate is rising. They aren’t bringing you dot balls either, those fielders. Most of the time, they are looking for catches. The occasional one might be stopped here or there. They aren’t there to put pressure on you. When you make a mistake, they will come after you. Putting pressure on them will be necessary to get them to move the field in the direction a hitter would prefer. That is the series’ grand-finale chess match. It will be about manipulating where Jadeja, Ashwin, and Axar want the field and where you want it. And it goes without saying that the team winning that battle will also win the series.


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