Australia left behind in India

Left-handers are part of Australian batting. But it doesn't work when you travel to India.

Neil Harvey was one of the best batters of all time. He did two stupid things, he came straight after Bradman. And then he batted on just a little bit too long. Meaning that his average dropped under 50.

He averaged 62 over the first eight years of his career, and 36 over the back half.

But he also averaged more away than at home, which is rare. And that average was over 50.

If you play 40 Tests away and average 50, you are a fantastic player. And it's that away record that is most relevant.

This is the list of all the Aussie left-handers who have batted in India. They appear in the order of the runs they made, but you can see that the lefty with the best batting average is Neil Harvey.

Harvey's game worked better on the road. But it worked very well for Indian conditions because he used his feet to the spinners like a dancer. He didn't invent the method that became the Australian way really until Michael Clarke retired. But Harvey was the perfect version of it.

He probably played in the wrong era because the only Asian pitches he played were in India. (He did visit Pakistan, but they were using matting). But I'm noting it here because he still has the best average of a left-hander when travelling to India from Australia.

And Australia send a lot there.

That is because they have a lot. Australia has nearly scored a quarter of all Test runs by left-handers.

They produce them at a staggering level. While other countries are often scratching around looking for a good couple of options, Australia can often have four in their top seven.

And they are not just picked because they are lefties. You can see that Australia also has the highest average of southpaw batters.

Other teams often pick one or two to give variety to their lineup. Australia just finds them naturally.

There have been teams with a higher percentage of left-handers in cricket history. But that is because Australia started so early that being left-handed was also seen as a character flaw. If you start from 1980, when lefties are normal in cricket and society, they have the most.

But there are other teams close to them. However, all these other teams have something Australia doesn't have, left-handers who grew up with spinning conditions. Even the West Indians have Guyana and Trinidad. And two of their champion lefties came from those locations. Australia has the SCG, which really doesn't spin as much as it used to. So Australia is not just producing left-handers. They are producing them without great skills when the ball turns.

Note where Matt Hayden is on this list. He scored the most runs of an Aussie lefty in India. He had a slow start to his career. After playing 13 Tests in his career, he was so good he almost doubled his run tally in one three-Test series against India.

Hayden did all this because Australia had set up to be more professional. He called them and asked if he could travel to Chennai to be part of a spin camp under Bishen Bedi and Erapalli Prasanna. They helped his game and tweaked his sweep shot. When he came back he destroyed India's bowlers.

But that was it. The next two times he came back, they had planned for him and he was back struggling again.

In Australia, Hayden is considered a great player in Indian conditions because he mastered it once. That is how tough and infrequent it is. (Harvey averaged over 50 on both occasions he went).

If you look at how left-hand batters fare by average in each nation, you can see that India is right down the bottom.

But there is a better way to illustrate this. India is one of only two places where right-handers average more than lefties.

And this is when you really start to see the issue clearly. India is the only test nation where it is worse to be left-handed.

And because of that, India actually struggles to make left-handers for their batting lineup. You can see that Australia is at one end of this, and India at the other.

It isn't that Indians hate them. It's that they struggle to find ones who can survive their conditions. This essentially means you need to be great at playing off-spin, not a natural state of a lefty.

When you travel to India to play a Test, you are going to face off-spin.

Last ten years, they've had the most deliveries in the world bowled as off-spin.

And even then they still have the lowest average.

And it's worth noting that Sri Lanka has more v balls per match, but their average is closer to England than India. That mark is probably taken down a bit by R Ashwin.

And Ashwin does put a huge shadow ever everything. There is no doubt he has helped by being in India a lot. However, the other side of that is whether he would have developed into this good an off-spinner had he not been from India. We have made an entire video about Ashwin and his hurt locker. If you want to know more.

So now the Aussie batters, let's focus on the cack-handers.

David Warner struggles in Asia, against spin in Asia, and against off-spin in Asia. Usman Khawaja's numbers look good, but he has never played in India, he averaged 165 in Pakistan, but a combined 26 against his matches in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. That is not a great sign.

Travis Head has been bad in Asia, against spin, and is especially bad against off-spin in Asia. Good luck playing, Ashwin, mate. Most of Alex Carey's numbers are playing the sweep in Pakistan or Sri Lanka. I would assume a drop-off in his numbers here. But of all the players I feel like he is the best bet from a small sample size.

Oh, and can I mention one right-hander?

Peter Handscomb is here because of three things. His innings in Ranchi, where he all but batted from both ends because of the tough to protect Shaun Marsh and get Australia home.

Reason two is that he's right-handed. His numbers don't inspire much when you look at his record against spin in Asia. And I think Axar and Ravi are a whole world of hurt for him. But he does stand on that side of the bat.

Lastly, this is the first year since 2016 that he has made runs. His first-class form had completely gone. He hasn't played a Test since 2019.

But this year in 16 red ball matches he is averaging over 50. The last time he did that was the year Australia picked him to tour India. I wish there was more to it than that, but Handscomb is a gamble Australia might have to take.

Cameron Green is one of the few right-handers Australia has, so his injury was not ideal. It means either Head or Renshaw will have to play. If you have forgotten, Renshaw is a lefty too.

This is the pattern that Ben Jones and Nathan Leamon talk about in their book, and it is happening again. Australia turn up to India with their best batters, and they are left-handed, and their teams struggle more than they should.

Ashwin has just made that even more brutal. Neil Harvey is 94 and Matt Hayden is busy with Pakistan, so the best left-handed batter Australia has in India available to them is Mitchell Starc. He averages more than Warner and Renshaw in India.

As luck would have it, this southpaw with a 33 average in India will also be missing the first match.

And just for fun, we’ll leave you with Bharat’s tweets.