Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Will India play safe?

The most interesting aspect of the new-look Indian team to meet West Indies in the forthcoming Test series is the presence of three spinners in the squad. One of them, Pragyan Ojha, is a proven quantity in Test cricket, quite unlucky to have missed the tours of the Caribbean and England.

The left-arm spinner has immaculate control, and makes it well nigh impossible for most batsmen to dominate the bowling, thus facilitating the fall of wickets at the other end even when he is only containing the flow of runs. He can be an attacking option, too, when he is on song.

Off spinner R Ashwin and leg-spinner Rahul Sharma are similar in that they both rely on subtle changes of pace and trajectory in planting doubt in the batsman’s mind in limited overs cricket and both display excellent control.

Ashwin, who seems certain to play in the first Test next week, can look forward to his moment in the limelight. With the West Indies not too formidable an opponent, he has a great chance to prove that he is a Test match bowler ready to step into Harbhajan Singh’s shoes. If he does well in the series, the selectors may be tempted to replace the sardar with him on a more permanent basis. While there seems no doubt that he has big match temperament and a sharp cricket brain, the big question is: Does Ashwin have the genuine spinning ability to win Test matches for India? Can batsmen play the waiting game and fare better than they have against him in ODIs and twenty-twenty cricket?

The Indian selectors also have an opportunity to play three spinners in the side plus two seam bowlers at the expense of one of the batsmen, as a moderate opposition in Indian conditions should be the ideal scenario for such experiments. Knowing the general conservatism of the five wise men, such adventurism can however safely be ruled out.


dinesh said...

My fear is that this is an experiment the results of which will end up in archives. There seems to be a pre-set notion that on the first hint of mediocre bowling by any of the spinners, Harbhajan will be rushed into the side to save face. Also, there has been indication that Harbhajan will be back for the australia series no matter what happens in this series.

That being said, Ashwin's ranji career suggests that he has been a workhorse bowler at best. Even weaker teams have been able to play him out with relative ease. The expectation at the India test level is that he becomes our newest match winner. I am worried that a failure here might make people see Ashwin differently (unfairly so) even in other formats in the game. Ashwin will have to find a dimension to his game that we (and possibly ashwin himself) have not seen yet. But if his IPL and India ODI career are any indication, our man is quite capable of such a transformation. Fingers crossed!

Ramnarayan said...

Very insightful. Thanks.

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