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For Dhoni, it spun the other way

G Unnikrishnan, Mumbai, Nov 25, 2012, DHNS:
M S Dhoni

A pitch that offers turn from the first ball. It had a prime place in Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s battle plan against England, and the ground staff at the Wankhede Stadium fulfilled his dream, offering him his choice of track.

But three days into the second Test here, India’s grand plan to take revenge on England, preparing spin-friendly pitches is in a shambles. Having conceded an 86-run innings lead, Indian top and middle order were dusted away by English spinners Monty Panesar, who completed a 10-wicket haul for the match, and Graeme Swann.

India were 117 for seven in their second innings at stumps on day three, holding a narrow lead of 31 runs, and from this point the match could only go in England’s way – barring a miracle of massive proportions.

It wouldn’t, in fact, be of much surprise, if you look back at the chain of events that unfolded in the last three days. Preparing a spin-friendly trampoline has always been a move fraught with danger as the visitors also have two quality spinners in their ranks – Panesar and Swann, who have reached 150 and 200 Test wickets respectively in this match.

The English duo holds far more experience than their Indian counterparts – R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha. The Indian tweakers might have done extremely well in the last few months against teams like the West Indies and New Zealand. But the English line-up consisting the likes of Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen, two batsmen who made hundreds on Sunday, and Matt Prior is an entirely different beast.

Harbhajan Singh was included in the side to exploit the spin-friendly nature of the surface but the offie, who is playing in his 99th Test, hasn’t played a Test in more than a year. So, it’s quite na´ve to imagine Harbhajan hitting the top gear straightaway.

In the end, Cook and Pietersen negated the Indian spin troika with ease, while the English spinners, who utilised the pitch to telling effect, reaped rich rewards for their consistency and understanding of the pitch.

On hindsight, it could be said that the Indian team played the wrong card.


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