Jason Gillespie. (Getty Images)
NAGPUR: Steve Waugh has achieved almost everything in his great career, except for a Test series win in India. He had named the 2001 India series as ‘Final Frontier’. Australia lost the historic series after winning the first Test in Mumbai.
Finally, Adam Gilchrist-led Australia accomplished the mission after a long 35 years in 2004. If Australia achieved the glory, a lot of credit should go to Jason Gillespie. The former pacer emerged as the highest wicket-taker in the series for Australia, picking up 20 wickets at an average of 16.15. Along with Glenn McGrath and Michael Karprowicz, Gillespie had choked the star-studded Indian batting line-up. The trio accounted for 43 out 68 wickets Australia had taken in the series.
“As a bowling group, we sat down and worked out how we’re going to (make an) impact for the team in Indian conditions,” Gillespie, said in a chat show Homerun with AV with sports commentator Arun Venugopal on his YouTube channel Gethist Creative.
The experience of playing in the Indian conditions helped the Australian pacers. “If we stick to bowling the Australian line and length, which is that fourth-stump line and encourage the Indian batsmen to hit through the off side, which is what we were trying to do in 2001, we’re taking bowled and lbws out of play. But we are also conscious that by attacking the stumps more, we were playing to the Indian batsmen’s strengths,” Gillespie, now a reputed coach, said.
In 2001, the Indian batsmen led by VVS Laxman took the Australian attack to the cleaners with some breath-taking strokeplay in the Kolkata and Chennai Test.
“A lot of Indian batsmen are very wristy and play really well through the leg side. So, you think guys like Laxman, (Rahul) Dravid and (Sachin) Tendulkar, (Virender) Sehwag…when the ball is on the stumps, they can hit the ball anywhere from straight past the bowler to square leg just by the use of their hands, very skillful players,” Gillespie, who took nine wickets in the Nagpur Test that eventually sealed the series with a Test to go, said.
The Australians didn’t over attack in that series and played with the Indians’ patience. They did their home work well and adopted some innovative field placing.
“We felt if you put an extra fielder or two on the leg side in catching positions and another defensive position on the fence, you encourage the Indian batsmen to run more between the wickets rather than get those easy boundaries. So, we wanted to test their fitness and we just felt that if we kept charging in and attacking the stumps, eventually the Indian batters might miss one or two of those, and we can get an lbw or a bowled and that’s what happened,” Gillespie revealed.
Australia got a lot of wickets bowled or lbw and caught-catching close to the wicket in that series. “It was good planning and we implemented those plans well. It was myself, McGrath and Kasprowicz as the seamer and Shane Warne as the spinner on that tour and Michael Clarke bowling some left-arm spin. It was a wonderful experience. It was great that we had a plan and it proved successful,” he said.