AS AUSTRALIA ponder a punt on Jason Krejza in their quest to take the 20 Indian wickets needed to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, the struggling pacemen are still searching for the right approach to unsettle India’s rampant batsmen and are expecting another benign pitch for the series finale in Nagpur.
The figures of Australia’s fast bowlers from the first three Tests, despite their improved showing in the drawn Test in Delhi, make sobering reading.
Mitchell Johnson is the best of the bowlers with 12 wickets at 34.58, and Brett Lee said yesterday the 27-year-old left-armer had carried the attack to the point where his senior teammates tried to feed off his aggression and unsettle the Indian batsmen with short balls.
The umpires were forced to intervene after Johnson gave V.V.S. Laxman a mouthful about the Indian batsman’s public criticism of Australia’s "defensive" approach to the series.
"The way Mitchell bowled with his aggression was great," said Lee. "He needed to lift up a gear, we were trying to get the vibes off him. He wanted to carry the ball for Australia and get some breakthroughs. He was pretty pumped up and that was great.
"What we’ve done in the first two Tests probably hasn’t worked. If you’re being critical about not taking wickets, we haven’t achieved that goal.
"The last Test, we tried new things and watched what India do. Sometimes they bowl short stuff, then put ball up and try to get a nick or lbw."
Stuart Clark, who missed the second Test with an elbow injury, has just two wickets at 80.5 in 73 overs for the series, and Australian captain Ricky Ponting has indicated all three reserve bowlers – Krejza, Peter Siddle and Doug Bollinger – will come under consideration for a Test Australia must win to level the series and keep the trophy.
"The guys on the sidelines, we have got to look long and hard at them – Bollinger, Siddle and Krejza – and see if we think they are going to add anything to our bowling group," Ponting said. "We probably need to look at Jason a bit closer. He was named in the 12 [in Delhi] and I think you guys might have thought that was just for something to do, but believe me, he came very close to playing. So with a bit more work this week, he will certainly come into consideration."
The job for the embattled Australian attack will not get any easier in Nagpur, where the wicket at the brand new stadium is expected to again be low and slow and where the Australians expect in-form Indian batsman Gautam Gambhir to play before his appeal against a one-match ban for elbowing Shane Watson can be heard.
The selection of Krejza would be a big gamble, given his first-class average of 50, but part-timer Virender Sehwag demonstrated the value of finger spin in Delhi with five wickets and all-rounder Cameron White has not managed to make a meaningful impact with his leg spin.
Siddle made an encouraging debut in Mohali, but Lee has backed the current group of fast bowlers to do the job.
"If we’re moving the ball, we’re in the ballpark. If the ball’s going dead straight on these low, slow wickets, you’re just out of the equation straight away, so if it’s not swinging, we are definitely behind the eight ball," Lee said.
"You know what you’re in for before you come here. You could whinge and say the wickets are low and slow and not great for bowling, but that’s the challenge."