Australia vs India 2018-19: 3 traps Indian batsmen must avoid in the first Test

Khozema Alyamani

Virat Kohli

The much-anticipated first Test between India and Australia is only about a week away. The match is scheduled to be played at the Adelaide Oval, and the excitement has reached fever pitch.

The Adelaide Oval has historically offered batting-friendly pitches, and India batted reasonably well during their last visit in 2014 when they posted scores over 400 and 300 in the first and second innings respectively. The problem then was that India's bowlers didn't deliver.

The pitch at the Oval has changed significantly since. In fact, since that Oval Test against India, no team has scored more than 250 on that pitch.

The consensus going into the series is that this Australian side is the weakest in recent memory, while the Indian side is the strongest it's been in a long time. So the feeling is that India has a great chance to post its first series win in Australia.

However, the Australians are not known to surrender meekly to any opposition, particularly at home, no matter how weak they may be perceived to be. Having played in the IPL for a decade, they are very familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of this Indian team, and will be ready with plans and traps for the Indian batsmen.

The good news for India is that their bowling line-up is a formidable one too. They have the variety in terms of pace and spin, and therefore the ability to run through the Aussie line-up. However, as in previous tours, the key will be for India's batsmen to post big totals.

To do that, the Indian batsmen must be disciplined and wary of these three traps the Aussies are likely to set for them:

#3 The Cow-corner set-up

Cow Corner

The Aussies understand very well that to ensnare Indian wickets they must first curb the run rate. Should India's top-order survive Australia's fast and furious initial overs, the hosts will seek to bowl accurate lengths and lines designed to dry up the runs, especially the boundaries.

India's batsmen have been known to get frustrated and make mistakes under such pressure in overseas conditions. So under such circumstances, Nathan Lyon's role will be to entice the Indian batsmen to play a lofted rash shot over the mid-wicket region.

Given the long boundaries in Australia, this is a shot that is fraught with danger, and the Indian batsmen do not need it in their arsenal. Moreover, It is a low-percentage shot whose cost is significantly higher than its benefit.

So by showing the discipline of avoiding that shot altogether, India can force the Aussies off their game-plan.

#2 The Hook Shot

The hook shot

The Indian batsmen's struggle against the short ball, generally, is a hypothesis that most teams put to test when playing India outside the sub-continent.

The Indian batsmen prepare well to face the expected barrage of bouncers, are always aware on the pitch that the next short ball is just around the corner, and mentally prepare to play the short ball appropriately. Yet, they have on several occasions taken the bait and given away their wickets carelessly.

So to avoid such mishaps this time, it would be wise of them to completely avoid attempting the hook shot. And there is some precedence for that kind of strategy.

Sachin Tendulkar famously avoided the cover-drive during his knock of 241 in Australia after having been dismissed a few times driving at balls outside the off-stump. He was incredibly successful with that strategy.

The Indian batsmen will be well served to adopt that model of discipline in their quest to thwart the threat of getting out to the short ball. The Australian fast bowlers will be relentless in their pursuit of Indian wickets by tempting the Indian batsmen to hook, but the visitors should not take the bait.

#1 Drive outside the off-stump

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The strategy of bowling outside the off stump has been Australia's most effective trap employed against the Indian top and middle order batsmen. As simple and harmless as this tactic seems, India's greatest batsmen have repeatedly given their wickets away to it.

Virat Kohli had a miserable tour of England in 2014 when James Anderson repeatedly ensnared him by bowling outside the off-stump. Kohli corrected that mistake and largely avoided wafting at such balls in his next series in England earlier this year, and ended up being the highest scorer of the series from either side.

Similarly, Tendulkar exhibited incredible restraint in avoiding the cover-drive on India's tour to Australia in 2004, and was also very successful.

To be strong on paper is one thing, but to go on the field and win in Australia is a completely different proposition. Australia will almost certainly employ these three traps, and they will be waiting for every small mis-step that the visitors take.

But if the Indian batsmen understand their vulnerabilities and remain disciplined against the Australian bowlers, a historic victory for this Indian team will almost certainly become reality.