Chennai, Feb. 18 -- With just less than a week to go for the first Test, Australia's problems seem to be growing. If their spinners have failed to inspire confidence so far, their batsmen's weakness against the turning ball has worsened the situation further. In the light of their performance on a rain-curtailed second day of the final warm-up game against India 'A', spin, in all likelihood, will be their Achilles heel on this tour. While the Aussie spinners were thrashed on Day One, the batsmen did precious little on Monday to lift the spirit, giving in to spinners.
Barring Shane Watson, none of the batsmen looked comfortable against left-arm spinner Rakesh Dhruv and off-spinner Jalaj Saxena as the visitor's stumbled to 131 for 4. This was after Manoj Tiwary's 129 helped India 'A' amass 451.
The first-wicket stand of 116 between aggressive Watson and Ed Cowan was built largely against the pacers. But when spinners came into play, Cowan, Phil Hughes and Usman Khawaja were found wanting.
Watson's 84 (87b, 13x4, 1x6) was the only positive for Australia and funny as it may seem, the burly batsman's position in the line-up is not decided yet, thanks to his decision to play purely as a batsman. Despite his success as an opener in India, skipper Michael Clarke said a while back that Watson cannot walk into the side purely on his batting credentials.
Watson, in 2008, batted at No.6 and averaged 24.48, but two years later while opening the innings, he averaged 67.75. The stats and his experience of the conditions - Watson is one of the four players in the squad to have played Tests in India - make him an important cog in the Australian wheel, especially with opener David Warner doubtful for the first Test due to thumb injury.
"In the first Test, it depends on whether Warner will be fit. Everyone has their fingers crossed. if he is fit, I'm not sure but I think I'll bat at four," said Watson. "I love opening, it's a lot of fun in any conditions. I know I've got the game plan as I've played a lot in India."
Watson's destructive batting style can demoralise the Indian bowlers. Just like Kevin Pietersen, who dented India's confidence with a bludgeoning 186 on a rank turner in Mumbai.
"We can't allow spinners to stick to line and length. The guys who have had success here in the past have attacked the spinners, so I will look forward to doing that," Watson said.
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.