Usually, Mahendra Singh Dhoni is reluctant to reveal the team combination, but on Wednesday the Indian captain took a different route stating that his side would go with two seamers and two spinners in the first Test against England, starting here on Thursday.
Zaheer Khan and Umesh Yadav didn’t attend the practice session at the Motera on the day, and Harbhajan Singh was seen engaged in a long stint at the nets, fuelling suspicions that India might unleash three spinners on England.
But Dhoni emphatically ruled out any such move, at least for now.
“Maybe if we get a wicket like the one at Kanpur against South Africa, we will even go with four (spinners). What we need to see is that if we get a wicket like that, the fast bowlers also get a bit of reverse swing. It’s always advisable to have a bowling attack to have people (available) for different scenarios.”
Explaining the logic behind benching Harbhajan, owner of 406 Test wickets from 98 Tests, to retain the young but the highly-successful spin duo of Pragyan Ojha and R Ashwin, Dhoni said, “If you see the top 4-5 spinners, Bhaji definitely features there. He was out of the side and is now part of the side for this series, which means he can share his experience with some of these youngsters.
“Ojha has played with him in some matches. He can share things with Ashwin because Ashwin is slightly different to him. I feel he has got a big amount of contribution to make in the coming series.”
The Jharkhand man also detailed the need to persist with the combination of Ashwin and Ojha.
“They understand each other really well, something that’s very important. Ojha is someone who can keep it tight at one end. Ashwin will always be a more aggressive bowler as someone who has got plenty of variations and loves to use them. We have also seen in innings where Ojha has got the breakthrough for us Ashwin does a bit of containing job. Both of them are able to get wickets for us. The best part is if there is something for them in the pitch, they make sure they come into the game,” Dhoni explained.
The series has been billed as a chance for India to extract revenge on England after the latter had inflicted a humiliating 4-0 defeat on them last year. But Dhoni refused to buy the revenge theory, slipping into his politically correct mode. “I know for a fact that when we go on to the field there will be a red ball, there will be two teams that will play. You can name it whatever you want. That does not change the fact that from tomorrow, we will go out and play Test cricket.”