It's payback time for Indians
Spin test awaits visiting Englishmen as the first of the four Tests kicks off on Thursday
The 30th series between India and England has already been billed as the revenge series, an opportunity for Mahendra Singh Dhoni & Co. to make amends for the 0-4 mauling they had suffered during their trip to Old Blighty last year.
Even comments by some of the players point to their urge to follow that age-old policy of barbaric warlords – eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth. In some sense, they can’t be faulted because the wounds England inflicted on them were too deep besides robbing them of the No 1 ranking in Tests.
So, their desire to exact revenge on England by preparing rank-turners to exploit the visitors’ weakness against spin seems to have a genuine ground. The form of India’s leading spinners – R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha – also offers a valid reason to resort to spin as they have grabbed 73 wickets from five Tests together so far at home.
The return of Harbhajan Singh to the Indian fold too might be an indication of England getting a few turners in the series. While there’s no harm in banking on the strength of the team – spin in India’s case – it’s a short-sighted strategy. With this series, India will begin a period of key clashes and their opponents fall into the heavy-weight category – Pakistan and Australia at home in the next couple of months, while South Africa, England and Australia away in the not-so-distant future.
In that context, it will be a good move to prepare some sporting tracks – like the one that we have seen against New Zealand in Bangalore – and fight all the way to victory. Such wins can only boost the morale of a team that’s learning to walk without Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman.
Even preparing spin-friendly pitches is no guarantee to success as undermining the prowess of English spin unit consisting Graeme Swann, Monty Panesar and Samit Patel could only bring perdition.
It also has to be considered when opting for a specific type of pitch that many of the Indian batsmen are not in the pink of their form, and the travails of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir at the totem pole position have been chronicled too extensively for a repeat here.
Sehwag’s hundred, though in a losing cause against a decent Uttar Pradesh attack in the Ranji Trophy, may be a sign of better things to come, but then English bowlers carry far more fire power than Praveen Kumar and his colleagues.
It’s imperative then for the Delhi duo to find its mojo -- not only to silence the growing clamour about their barren run, but also to prevent English bowlers – though injuries to Stuart Broad and Steven Finn may hamper them – from having an early crack at the new-look Indian middle-order. Some might argue that Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and Yuvraj Singh – preferred ahead of Suresh Raina – have done enough recently that such fears are out of place.
Admittedly, Kohli has been brilliant in all three forms of the game, Pujara marked his return to top-flight cricket with a big hundred at Hyderabad and Yuvraj showed his readiness for Tests, grinding it out in domestic cricket after surviving a battle against cancer.
However, it will not be advisable to leave entire run-making job to the trio against a seasoned English bowling line-up, and the modest form of Sachin Tendulkar too is a cause of worry. The batting maestro himself has admitted recently that there’s not much cricket left in him, and that self-assessment appears accurate while reliving the recent images of him getting bowled too many times for comfort.
In the bowling department, the ever-dependable Zaheer Khan seems to have entered a freeze-zone, unable to produce his best despite trying wholeheartedly and his fitness too remains vague. Umesh Yadav, if he indeed gets a chance, needs to curb his prodigal ways.
With their own set of worries to be addressed, India’s approach should be based on pragmatism rather than longing for retaliation.