Former Australia pacer Jason Gillespie revealed the team game plan to finally win the ‘Final Frontier’ – a Test series in India – which was to choke the home team’s batting stalwarts for runs.
A Steve Waugh-led Australia had seen their winning streak famously snapped when India had bounced back to win the Test series in 2001. A few years later, a still dominant Australia side returned and cricket fans expected a similar thrilling contest at the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in 2004.
This time, though, Australia proved to be too strong and won the elusive Tests series in India with a 2-1 margin after mammoth wins at Bangalore and Nagpur. Adam Gilchrist was the stand-in captain for the Border-Gavaskar series in place of injured Ricky Ponting.
Gillespie, who was Australia’s highest wicket-taker in the four-match series, attributed their win to the game plan they had developed to silence India’s mighty batting line-up featuring the likes of Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar. The key was putting pressure on the Indians to run between the wickets more and avoiding the usual Australian technique of bowling to the fourth stump.
“As a bowling group, we sat down and worked out how we’re going to [make an] impact for the team in Indian conditions,” Gillespie said on Homerun with AV, a Youtube show with sports commentator Arun Venugopal. “If we stuck to bowling the Australian line and length, which is that fourth-stump line and encourage the Indian batsmen to hit through the off side, which is what we were trying to do in 2001, we’re taking bowled and lbws out of play.”
“But we are also conscious that by attacking the stumps more, we were playing to the Indian batsmen’s strengths. A lot of Indian batsmen are very wristy and play really well through the leg side. So, you think guys like Laxman, Dravid and Tendulkar, Sehwag… When the ball is on the stumps, they can hit the ball anywhere from straight past the bowler to square leg just by the use of their hands, very skillful players. So, we felt if you put an extra fielder or two on the leg side in catching positions and another defensive position on the fence and encourage the Indian batsmen to run more between the wickets rather than get those easy boundaries,” he added.
Targeting the Indian batsmen’s fitness seemed to have worked for the Australians with the pace battery of Gillespie, Glenn McGrath and Michael Kasprowicz making merry with 20, 14 and nine wickets respectively.
“We wanted to test their fitness and we just felt that if we kept charging in and attacking the stumps, eventually the Indian batters might miss one or two of those, and we can get an lbw or a bowled and that’s what happened,” he said. “We got a lot of wickets bowled or lbw and caught – catching close to the wicket in that series. It was good planning and we implemented those plans well. It was myself, Glenn McGrath and Michael Kasprowicz as the seamer and Shane Warne as the spinner on that tour and Michael Clarke bowling some left-arm spin. It was a wonderful experience. It was great that we had a plan.”
Gillespie also spoke about his rare Test double century against Bangladesh, adding that it was advice from Mike Hussey that kept him going.
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