Warne cracks the Cook-Pujara code
Mumbai, Nov 25: If cricket is a mind game, its shrewdest exponents are the spinners. And one man of this tribe can take the credit for redefining the relationship between the brain and the cricket ball. His name is Shane Keith Warne.
Like with all brilliant magicians, a major factor behind Warne’s impact on the game was his ability to trick the minds – in his case, those of the batsmen. No wonder then, when Anil Kumble was asked to pick one quality from Warne’s bowling he would love to have had, he said, “Warnie’s ability to set the batsman up”.
The magician has put his wand to rest. But his cricketing mind keeps ticking, quick and sharp as ever. And we tried to pick it in order to solve the two mysteries that have left the bowlers scratching their heads in the ongoing India-England Test series. The mysteries go by the name of Alastair Cook and Cheteshwar Pujara.
Both these men have been torturing the opposition bowlers right from the beginning of the series. Pujara scored 382 runs in the first three innings – including a double-century in the first – before finally getting out in Mumbai. Cook followed up his 176 in Ahmedabad with a century in Mumbai.
With spinners from both teams struggling to get Cook and Pujara out early on, we at bcci.tv tried to seek some help for them from the man who picked many of his 1,001 international wickets with his astute mind.
I think he’s batted beautifully. This is the best hundred I’ve seen from him in the last 10 years. He’s looked so organised and his knock has been an exhibition in batting. But you have to try and find some weakness in him to get him out.
If I were either Harbhajan Singh or R Ashwin, I’d have two tricks to get Cook out:
Around the wicket - If I bowled around the wicket, I’d be bowling on the leg-stump and be quick through the air. In between, I’d sneak in one slow and full outside the off-stump and get him to cover drive against the spin. Even if he plays with the spin, there’d be chance for me to get him nicking off with a short cover.
Over the wicket - If that didn’t work, I’d go over the wicket and bowl full outside leg-stump and get him to sweep. I’d place a man at 45 to catch a top-edge off the sweep.
Ojha has to try and get Cook driving. He has to bowl very full and outside off-stump. He has to try and bowl him out back through the gate or get him to nick one to the slip with the one that goes straight. He has to back it up by pushing in one wide so that Cook has to stretch to get there. But by and large, he has to keep it full and wide and get him to drive.
Pujara looks like a fantastic young player. He has no obvious weakness although I thought he might be tested with the short ball. Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad were after him with the short ball when there was something in the wicket early on Day 1. But Puajra looked organised and seemed to have a plan to counter that. He didn’t look intimidated at all against that type of bowling.
Pujara is very strong on the on-side. He likes to use his wrist and flick it on the leg. So, someone like Panesar should be bowling quite wide off the crease from around the wicket and angle the ball into the leg-stump with pace. He should have just enough protection on the on-side, to take advantage of the miscued shots. Only very occasionally, I’d pitch it on the middle and off-stump but for most of the time, I’d drop in on or outside the leg-stump as a left-arm spinner to Pujara.
Swann’s just got to bowl his normal stuff to Pujara. What Swann does well is he gets a good drift. He gets some fine revolutions on the ball. He should look to get the ball to curve away from Pujara – and that’s what he did when he got him out stumped in the first innings in Mumbai. It was a bit slower and higher and it didn’t turn like his other balls. Swann would say it was the one that went straight but I’m sure it was the off-spinner that didn’t turn. That’s how I’d bowl to him if I were Swann – wide outside the off with a little protection and induce him to drive.
The thumb rule for spinners
Every spinner has to work out as to what pace he has to bowl to extract maximum spin off the track in given conditions. That will be his stock ball. The ideal speed varies for every bowler. Once you get your stock ball right, that’s the ball you bowl four times in the over. The other two deliveries would be a slower one and a quicker one each.
Follow Shane Warne on Twitter @warne888