Whenever Peter Handscomb's name is mentioned it immediately leads to a conversation about his technique. As and when Handscomb churns out runs, the statistics and his efficiency almost become an afterthought. After a series of failures in Test cricket at home against India Handscomb's selection in the ODI was seen as a bit of surprise. But in the first ODI in Sydney, he scored a composed 73 and was once again quizzed about this technique by the local broadcaster in Australia.
"I'm not going to be changing massive things off the back of one, one-and-a-half games, so it's about going back to what I know, making sure my shapes are right and hopefully the runs will come" he had said.
The runs have certainly been flowing for Handscomb in 50-over cricket. He has scored 335 runs at 47.85 since been recalled into the ODI setup. From a technical point of view, not much has changed. He still hangs back in his crease, with a the high backlift that he previously had and still prefers to stay leg-side of the ball. But this is the white-ball arena and the bowlers simply cannot keep honing in on his weakness for a prolonged time. Add to that the pitches are not conducive to seam movement. Importantly, Handscomb has not let his failures in the Test series affect his technique, he stuck to his strengths and came out on top.
"Obviously, it was shattering to get dropped from the Test squad, it was something I'd been priding myself on, trying to be a strong red-ball player for Victoria and always pushing my case for Australia. So that hurt. But on the flipside, to now be pushing my case in white-ball (cricket), it's a beautiful feeling and how quickly the highs and lows change within cricket." He told reporters after his maiden century in Mohali.
Handscomb has always been touted as one of the best players of spin in Australia. It is through the middle stages that he has proved his value. Even against the wizardry of Kuldeep Yadav, he has excelled by either using his feet or sweeping him from the line of the stumps. It is not only the ongoing ODI series in India that would have given Handscomb the confidence to succeed but he did reasonably well against the Indian spinners in the three ODI's in Australia. The talented middle order batsmen had negotiated Kuldeep so well that even prompted India to leave the left-arm wristspinner out of the playing XI in the third ODI and led Kohli to state "we felt that the Australian batsmen were starting to pick him".
Handscomb would have sensed a productive tour was around the corner and all he needed was a strong backing. Justin Langer was certainly aware of his proficiency against the spinners during the middle phase of the game. It was a period of the game that Australia had really struggled at over the past 12 months, but in the ongoing series, Handscomb has played a huge role in changing that trend.
Out of the 184 runs Handscomb has scored in the series, 112 have come against spinners at a strike-rate of 92. He has been the thorn in the flesh for the Indian side and if it wasn't for the brilliant run-out in Nagpur, he may have got the visitors across the line in the second ODI.
The way Handscomb built his innings in Mohali underlined his credentials. Coming in at 12-2, he played a chanceless knock for his first 50 runs. Apart from the calculated sweeps against Kuldeep, he played the ball in the ‘V' and his strike rotation was exceptional.
Handscomb's technique of hanging on the leg-side of the ball has enabled him to guide deliveries on the 4th stump line from the pacers down to the third man with ease. It is a shot that the likes of Kohli and Rohit Sharma have mastered in the past couple of years and Handscomb seems to have mastered it as well.
It is due to Handscomb's resurgence at No.4 that has enabled Australia to compete with India. It is a huge turnaround for a batsman that was seen as a ‘walking wicket' in the Test series on his home turf against the same set of bowlers.
"I didn't know if I was ever going to play a one-dayer again. It's funny how things change but it was nice to get that opportunity in Australia and take it, then to have faith (from) the selectors to keep me in, it was nice to get (his maiden hundred) today," Handscomb stated after the match.
After a productive series, it is fair to say the doubts over Handscomb's technique have been shelved for now, at least in the ODI arena. With five more matches on the slow pitches in the UAE against Pakistan, it might be the case that Handscomb might be difficult to omit from the playing XI come the World Cup.
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