It was in Glamorgan of all places that Australia’s game-changing tactics for their drought-breaking 2004 tour of India were conjured up.
Off the back of winning the National League title in 2004, Michael Kasprowicz, who had been a part of the failed tours of 1998 and 2001, was at Sydney International Airport ready to board a flight to India along with his teammates when he approached Jason Gillespie.
“Rather than breaking any records [of drinking on planes], I remember speaking catching up with Dizzy [Gillespie] and said, ‘What do you think about this?’” Kasprowicz tells foxsports.com.au.
“Dizzy and I then went and spoke to Buck [Australian coach John Buchanan] and Pigeon [Glenn McGrath] and that’s where I like to think the idea and the concept was born — and I had something to do with the idea.”
That idea was to bowl to India’s strengths.
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For the thirty-four years Australia had toured India in Tests and come back empty-handed.
Three years earlier they looked set to break that drought having gone one-nil up in Mumbai and then sent India to follow-on in the next Test at Calcutta only to lose in unimaginably and sensationally lose in one of the game’s great games. That series heartbreak would be confirmed a week later as India scraped home by two-wickets in Chennai to complete a remarkable home win and end Steve Waugh’s “final frontier” ambitions.
But after being a part of two losing touring parties, Kasprowicz believed a change of tactics were needed.
“My suggestion was to bowl to the Indian’s strengths in theory,” he said.
“Let’s bowl straight because short of a length outside off doesn’t work on these wickets.
“So some subtle changes in the field to build pressure in other ways; bowling straighter on that off-stump line, with short catchers at mid-wicket so if they flick it in the air we’ll catch them; we have a man forward of square on the fence so they’re only going to get one and not four; plus, also, then by bowling the short ball over off-stump, we force them on the back foot to catch them on the crease to the ball that nips back or keeps low. So that was theory and the best part of that was our execution was precise.”
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But the idea was developed during Kasprowicz’s stint playing County Cricket for Welsh side, Glamorgan.
“I know it sounds comical when you’ve got Gillespie and McGrath in your team, but I had just played County Cricket for Glamorgan and played on a low, slow wicket in County Cricket and had a great season by doing just that – bowling straighter and concentrating on reverse swing. But more so it was that structure because you wouldn’t have nicks going to second slip and third slip,” Kasprowicz says.
The bowling plans worked from the get-go, with McGrath striking early twice in Bangalore by attacking the stumps to leave India reeling at 2-4 after Michael Clarke’s marvellous century on debut.
Australia, with Damien Martyn the glue holding the tourists together in the middle-order, had wrapped up the series at the conclusion of the third Test in Nagpur.
For Adam Gilchrist, who skippered the side in the absence of the injured Ricky Ponting for the opening three Tests, it rates as the wicket-keeper’s greatest triumph.
“That’s the highlight,” Gilchrist told foxsports.com.au.
“For me in Test cricket, that’s the pinnacle. That’s what we were chasing.
“And you think of the two lots of 16 [consecutive] Tests [wins], they’re long periods of dominance and satisfying and we didn’t become complacent and three world cups. But to get that victory after 34 years, that was very, very satisfying.”
Tellingly, Australia starved India of scoring and scoring quickly during the 2004 tour.
Only McGrath’s economy rate of 2.52 was more expensive than the previous tour (1.91), while Gillespie’s, Kasprowicz’s and Warne’s was considerably better.
In fact, each of Australia’s quicks had a better economy than their counterparts.
Interestingly, too, it’s not the dashing and matchwinning century that Gilchrist scored on the earlier tour of 2001 that rates as his finest in India.
No, that honour is reserved for his second-innings contribution of 49, when he came in at first-drop and helped put Australia in a position to draw the game as Martyn scored a fine century as Australia made 369 after being well behind following the first-innings.
“Whereas three years later I managed to get a hundred and my most important innings in India was 49 in the second innings in Chennai in 2004,” Gilchrist added.
“But that’s not all that sexy to talk about compared to a hundred off 80 balls.”