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India vs Australia: Why Don't Test Teams Use Pinch-Hitters to Stop Chaotic Collapses?

India vs Australia: Why Don't Test Teams Use Pinch-Hitters to Stop Chaotic Collapses?

In tough conditions, or in the middle of collapses like this one, how about introducing some 'chaos' to throw bowlers off guard

Not too long ago, the Indian dressing room was a happy place cheering and applauding every ball their nightwatchman Jasprit Bumrah defended to ensure the team went to stumps on Day 2 with an upper hand. Bumrah's small inning was so impressive that a few players even stood up to applaud and receive him at the end of the day's play, smiles all around.

Little would they have known what was to come the following day, where the smiles were washed away and the advantage lost in no time. India began the day 9 for 1; a good day with the bat could have kept Australia out of the game. An average day would have made the fourth innings a good contest. Even a bad day might have still left India's bowlers something to bowl at, given they had a 53-run first-inning lead. However, what happened was worse than a bad day. Terrible would be an understatement.

After Massive Collapse, Virat Kohli Says India 'Should Have Showed Little Intent'

One after another, starting with Bumrah, batsmen fell like nine pins. Bumrah chipped a return catch to Pat Cummins with India 15 for 2. Within no time, it became 15 for 5 as Cheteshwar Pujara, Mayank Agarwal and Ajinkya Rahane all fell caught behind. Cummins and Josh Hazlewood were nearly indistinguishable; both were fast, accurate and menacingly relentless in the channel.

And then came the biggest blow. Virat Kohli had two options - look to defend like the others did without success, or attack. It appeared like he chose the latter but before he could begin the process, he was gone. The captain chased a wide one from Cummins, the edge flying to gully. Wriddhiman Saha's poor game continued when he meekly chipped a flick straight to mid wicket, and Hazlewood added another to his tally when he found the outside edge - once again! - off Ashwin. Hanuma Vihari resisted for 22 balls... but an outside edge was inevitable. It was that kind of a day. In fact, it only got worse as Cummins hit Mohammed Shami on the elbow, forcing him to retired hurt. Shami's injury will be a concern for India for the rest of the series.

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It was an absolutely mad phase of play in the Test, causing a dramatic turnaround. India's plan would have been to bat for at least two sessions, gain a sizeable lead and make Australia bat under lights. All such hopes were destroyed, and how.

Incredibly enough, this collapse had absolutely nothing to do with the pitch. There wasn't extraordinary bounce. There wasn't extraordinary seam movement. And yet, Hazlewood and Cummins were so relentless with their lines and lengths, and getting the ball to move just enough to find the outside edge so regularly.

India fans might not believe it, but nearly all the dismissals were a result of tremendous bowling than reckless batting. There was hardly any out-of-norm mistake that the Indian batsmen did in their defensive techniques. Every single edge, barring perhaps Kohli and Ashwin, were to deliveries that had to be played and not left alone. Only Kohli's dismissal was a consequence of the situation - he went for a cover drive, which he didn't attempt for long in the first innings, and perished.

How about some chaos to stop the collapse?

In fact, that's perhaps what India will be worried about more than anything. That they didn't try to attack enough. That they didn't try to throw Hazlewood and Cummins off their channels. A few attacking shots - maybe even a couple of successful slogs - would not have been out of place.

Kohli too had rightly pointed out at the post-match presentation that they needed more 'intent' with the bat.

I wonder if matches like this could lead to some innovation in batting strategy. Batting orders in Test cricket, for obvious and logical reasons, are rigid with the occasional nightwatchmen being the only exceptions.

But in tough conditions, or in the middle of collapses like this one, how about introducing some 'chaos' to throw bowlers off guard? A pinch-hitter maybe?

Sir Donald Bradman in a 1936-37 Ashes Test had reversed the Australian batting order to protect his batsmen from a wet wicket. Bradman himself came at number seven and made 270. Why don't we see innovations like that in Test cricket anymore?

It happens occasionally in T20 cricket; I can recall an instance where MS Dhoni successfully sent in Harbhajan Singh and Deepak Chahar ahead of other accomplished batsmen in the middle of a collapse in an IPL 2018 match. Dhoni later said he did it to introduce some chaos so that bowlers aren't allowed to bowl as and how they please. KKR opening with Sunil Narine is also a similar strategy.

A similar strategy where India send a decent hitter - perhaps Umesh Yadav - might not have been too drastic. Umesh has played a couple of cameos in Test cricket, and even hit a 24 (18) in the warm up match prior to this game. An innings like that would have been gold in the situation India found itself in. Worst case scenario wouldn't have been too different from what was happening otherwise either.

It's difficult for regular batsmen like Rahane, Vihari, Saha or even Kohli to throw caution to the wind and show 'intent' because they're so used to playing correct cricket, which is what they did this time too. Too bad they just kept getting out!

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2 Australia 3028 116
3 India 3085 114
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1 England 5405 123
2 India 6102 117
3 New Zealand 3716 116
4 Australia 4344 111
5 South Africa 3345 108
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2 Australia 6800 272
3 India 10186 268
4 Pakistan 7516 259
5 South Africa 5047 252
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