What are the common attributes between Nathan Hauritz, Jason Krejza, Steve O’Keefe, Todd Murphy and Matt Kuhnemann? They are all Australian spinners and they have all troubled the Indian batsmen in their rookie career. On this tour alone, two of them have five-fors against the so-called best players of spin.
The 22-year-old Murphy had a seven-for on his debut Test in Nagpur, and on Wednesday here, Kuhnemann, who got his Test cap in Delhi, earned a fifer against his name. The Queenslander returned impressive figures of 5/16 as Australia skittled India for a modest 108 on a rank-turner. Batting first on these pitches is a big advantage but India, who chose to bat, found out that reading Kuhnemann’s bowling was more difficult than pronouncing his name.
While the pitch was challenging to bat on, especially the first hour, exploiting these helpful conditions requires certain amount of skill and discipline — both qualities that the 22-year-old displayed in abundance en route his fourth first-class five-wicket haul — that are difficult to possess in Australian conditions early in one’s career. Kuhnemann had played just 13 first-class games before his Test debut.
“In my backyard at Christmas, yes,” he told host broadcaster Star Sports when asked if he has ever bowled on such pitches even as he acknowledged senior off-spinner Nathan Lyon’s advice.
Of the three pitches so far in this series, Indore pitch offered the most turn and it’s easy to get carried away by it. Overseas spinners often tend to try too hard and too many things when all it needs is hitting the right spots and letting the pitch to do the rest. For the record the Indore pitch offered an average turn of 4.8 degrees in the first session compared to the opening sessions in Nagpur (2.8) and Delhi (3.5).
“… We still talked about, Nathan and I, the importance of not getting carried away and bowling in the same spot and same ball, more often than not,” he added.
It’s one thing not to get carried away but quite another to remain undaunted at the prospect of bowling to acknowledged masters of spin even if that may not hold true any longer. The sight of the likes of Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli can be nerve-racking for an inexperienced spinner.
So how did he overcome the nerves?
“Nathan was fantastic to me. He said ‘pull your sleeve up and get into the contest’. Doesn’t really matter if you are bowling to Rohit. Yes, Rohit is one of the best in these conditions, but he asked me to worry more about myself.”
Kuhmenann spoke about the review of Australian spinners’ performance in the Delhi Test and the work they put in during the gap.
“We sort of reviewed the Delhi game, myself, the spinners along with Dan Vettori (spin coach),” said Kuhnemann. “We were sort of a touch full, we sort of bowled 4-5 metres, I want to bring it back to 4-6 metres this game. We did some technical stuff and more mental side of things. We were fortunate enough to get a 10-day break between the two Tests,” he noted.
Kuhnemann revealed his effort was extra special because his father got in on Wednesday to watch him in action.
“I am sort of pinching myself every time I go to bed. It’s pretty special. My dad got in today, it was pretty special to take some wickets in front of him. I am getting a lot of support from back home. It feels amazing to be part of this team,” he remarked.