Former Indian spinner Venkatapathy Raju reckons that England will unleash the sweep-shot versus the Indians, but believes the pace and trajectory of Washington Sundar and Axar Patel might hinder the visitors’ plans a little. Ojha, like Raju, also opined that the English will rely on the sweep shot.
Rarely is a buildup for a four-Test series entirely based on one single shot – and not match-ups – but such has been the way England have gone about their business, particularly of late. In their recently-concluded 2-0 rout of Sri Lanka, the English batsmen unleashed the sweep shot to counter the home spinners, and their charge was led by none other than Joe Root. The England skipper swept, swept and swept his way to glory and eventually finished the series with twice as many runs as the second-highest run-getter, striking a double-ton and 186 in consecutive games to help his side whitewash the Lankans.
The sweep, as a result, has been in focus ahead of the India-England series, but according to former Indian spinner Venkatapathy Raju, the Three Lions’ plans might get complicated by the nature of the Indian spinners. Raju opined that the height and trajectory of Washington Sundar and Axar Patel – who are known to dart the ball in – might make the sweep a difficult shot to pull off.
“It puts the spinners off if a batsman starts sweeping well. Of course, you have to be skillful enough to do it well and consistently. But Sundar’s speed and trajectory won’t make things easy. Axar too is tall and won’t allow the sweep to be played easily,” Raju told TOI.
“In fact, these days, batsmen play the reverse sweep more proficiently and more often than the traditional sweep. Andy (Flower) was the first guy I saw playing it so well in a Test match. But you need exceptional skill to pull it off.”
Another former Indian left-arm spinner, Pragyan Ojha, asserted with confidence that the English batsmen, in particular Root and Buttler, will be adamant to sweep. Ojha was a part of the Indian side in the team’s 2-1 loss to England in 2012, where he and his fellow bowlers were swept to defeat by Kevin Pietersen.
“They will keep sweeping us. If you see how Root played against Sri Lanka, he will sweep here too. As will players like Jos Buttler,” Ojha predicted.
At the same time, however, Ojha is of the opinion that the sweep shot might be a double-edged sword. The 34-year-old stressed that the stroke comes with risk, and pointed out how umpires, these days, due to DRS, do not hesitate to make ‘bold’ LBW calls.
“Umpires did not give certain decisions earlier, but with DRS, things have changed. Batsmen will be wary.”