“Is the ball over there? No, it’s here”- Ian Chappell claims England batsmen panicked against spin

India vs England, Ahmedabad Test. Pic: BCCI

Even as the debate over the Ahmedabad pitch continues, former Australia captain Ian Chappell believes England’s batsmen panicked against the Indian spinners.

India defeated England by 10 wickets inside two days in the pink-ball Test in Ahmedabad. Local boy Axar Patel claimed 11 wickets in the match while Ravichandran Ashwin finished with seven.

According to Chappell, India exploited England’s weakness in brilliant fashion, not only on the field but mentally as well. Writing in a column for ESPNCricinfo, the former cricketer elaborated:

“India’s decision to select three spinners for the Test was prompted by England’s batting on a tricky Chennai pitch, where their batsmen – Joe Root excepted – displayed a distinct ineptitude against spin. India correctly calculated that would result in mental scarring and used it to their advantage.”

Chappell termed Axar Patel’s dismiss of Jonny Bairstow with a straight delivery on the opening day as a significant moment in the game. He wrote:

“From the moment Axar Patel conjured up the ultimate thimble-and-pea trick to dismiss Jonny Bairstow with a straight delivery, England were in a spin. Is the ball over there? No, it’s here. When faced with a serious spin challenge, the England batsmen didn’t trust their defence, which eventually resulted in panicked attempts to attack the Indian spinners. Their choice to reverse-sweep rather than to leave their crease to change the bowler’s length is a classic example.”

According to Chappell, good footwork can go a long way in negating spin as it puts a batsman in a position to direct the ball where he wants.

Recalling a conversation with Shane Warne after the 2001 Test series, Chappell further said:

“Following the memorable 2000-01 series in India where VVS Laxman made a magnificent 281 on a testing surface, I asked Shane Warne how he thought he had performed. ‘I didn’t think I bowled badly,’ he replied. ‘You didn’t,’ was my response. ‘When a batsman alters your length drastically by coming out three paces and then is quickly onto the back foot when you toss the next delivery a little higher and shorter, that’s not bad bowling, that’s excellent footwork’.”

Chappell pointed out that England batsman Ollie Pope had the right idea to use his feet against Indian spinners, but got his execution wrong. The 77-year-old explained:

“Firstly, he jumped rather than glided out of the crease. Secondly, his front foot pressed forward but the back one lingered, as if searching for the safety of the crease. I was told two crucial things about footwork when I was very young: ‘Get stumped by three yards not three inches,’ my coach said, ‘and never think about the keeper when you leave the crease’.”

Chappell went on to add about Pope’s batting:

“Pope was conscious of the keeper as he tentatively ventured out of his crease, which meant he was worried he would miss the delivery. That results in footwork that hinders rather than helps. It’s never easy against good spinners on a challenging surface, but it is possible to play well; just not the way England are going about it.”

The fourth and final Test of the India-England series will be played in Ahmedabad from March 4.

A win or a draw would see India qualify for the World Test Championship (WTC) final.

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