Bizarre new Indian tactic sparks controversy against Blackcaps

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 28 Nov 2021, 10:07AM

Bizarre new Indian tactic sparks controversy against Blackcaps

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 28 Nov 2021, 10:07AM

Polarising India star Ravichandran Ashwin has debuted a bizarre new tactic during India's Test clash with New Zealand. 

Ashwin has sparked controversy in the past for repeatedly claiming 'mankad' dismissals, and in September earned the ire of fans for running a single when a fielder's throw was deflected off his IPL batting partner Rishabh Pant. 

Now he's pushing the boundaries of the rules once again. Late on day two and again on day three, the spinner debuted a diagonal run-up from around the wicket where his follow-through went directly across the umpire's line of sight and then in front of the nonstriking batter. 

While it avoided the so-called 'danger zone' which bowlers and batters must not run across, his bizarre new action drew the ire of umpire Nitin Menon on Saturday. 

Ashwin was warned during the 77th over of NZ's innings by Menon, as a running conversation commenced between player and umpire. It lasted until the end of the over, as India captain Ajinkya Rahane also joined the conversation to defend Ashwin's unusual actions. 

During the lunch break, India coach Rahul Dravid and match referee Javagal Srinath were seen engaging in an intense discussion. 

Ashwin returned to his usual approach and follow-up during the rest of the innings. 

Commentator Simon Doull suggested Ashwin's follow-through was getting in the path of the nonstriker's running. "If the nonstriker wanted to run, Ashwin gets right in front of where the nonstriker would probably be running. And that is not allowed. The bowler can also not dictate where the nonstriker stands," Doull added. 

Ashwin had also been warned the previous day by the same umpire for running through the middle of the pitch while he was batting. 

Blackcaps collapse as India show class 

It took until the third day but New Zealand were finally sent into a spin in the first test against India. 

An encouraging platform was mostly squandered as the hosts' spin trio halted the Blackcaps' progress in Kanpur, the tourists plummeting from 197-1 to be bowled out after tea for 296 in reply to India's 345. 

At stumps, India reached 14-1, leading by 63 runs, and with any fourth-innings chase over 200 set to be devastatingly difficult, the Blackcaps will need to replicate their brilliant day two performance when they resume on day four. 

Day three started with the Blackcaps on 129-0, and reached 151-0 before Will Young (89) departed. Neither he nor Tom Latham (95) were able to advance to three figures, left to watch instead as the senior trio behind them undid some of the good work. 

Axar Patel (5-62) was chiefly responsible for that as New Zealand suffered through a 26-over spell that saw them lose 5-45, the left-armer taking the scalps of Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls and Latham. 

Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja also chimed in with a wicket apiece as the Blackcaps slumped to 249-6 at tea, and despite some defensive tail resistance, runs were hard to come by as their innings ended 49 runs short of India's total. 

Young added only 14 to his overnight tally before edging behind off Ashwin's bowling - the increasing turn a harbinger of what was to follow - but that was enough to give him a new high score. 

Latham, meanwhile, continued to show why he is regarded as one of the Blackcaps' best against spin, looking comfortable and well on course for his 12th test century. 

Given only three New Zealand batsmen had entered this series with past test experience in India, and given Kane Williamson and Taylor would both fall cheaply, the Blackcaps owed Latham a debt of gratitude regardless of his eventual stumping. 

He received a life when struck in front by Ashwin on 66, given not out before India inexplicably opted against reviewing, with replays showing the delivery would have cleaned up middle and off. 

Latham had advanced to 82 by lunch but the meal wouldn't have been quite as palatable after he lost his partner just before the break. 

In the second over with the new ball, Umesh Yadav got one to seam in sharply enough to break through Williamson's defences, sending the skipper on his way for 18. 

That vital wicket gave India the edge for the first session, one they went about extending in the second. 

Taylor had already survived one moment of peril while facing Patel, with substitute wicketkeeper KS Bharat unable to complete a tough stumping chance. But Bharat quickly redeemed himself by taking a fine catch when Taylor sought to defend, beaten by a bit of turn to fall for 11. 

Nicholls' stay was brief as Patel picked up a second, the ball keeping low to sneak through the batsman's attempted slog sweep and strike the pad. 

Latham was the next to fall, leaving his crease in a defensive attempt and being deceived by the turn, before Jadeja bowled debutant Rachin Ravindra for 13 to complete the collapse. 

After tea, Tom Blundell was unlucky to see a delivery from Patel shoot along the ground and skittle his stumps, but with balls staying low all test, it made his decision to painstakingly bat 94 balls for 13 runs questionable at best. 

Kyle Jamieson was similarly stoic on an admittedly difficult surface to score on, but after grafting 23 runs off 74 balls he either changed strategy or lost patience on the 75th, and an almighty slog was caught on the midwicket boundary. 

New Zealand's innings wrapped up soon after that, but Jamieson was soon back in the action, clean bowling Shubman Gill with his first ball. 

In just his ninth test, Jamieson became the fastest New Zealander to 50 test wickets, and he'll likely need to pick up a few more on day four to keep the Blackcaps in with a chance of victory.