India's spin conundrum

Cricket : Turning ball has often troubled the batsmen in the recent past

India's spin conundrum

 Shock and dismay were the expressions written largely on skipper Virat Kohli’s face as he fronted up the media after the Indian team let slip away a match that they had dominated for most parts, thanks to one poor session where their inability to play top-level spin was exposed ruthlessly.

Yes, Dinesh Chandimal cracked a brilliant counter-attacking 162 not out, scoring all those runs at the rate of knots to give his team a healthy 175 runs to defend, but the Indians had no business losing the match what with two full days remaining and the Galle International Stadium track being no minefield.

Losing all 10 wickets to spin — seven to veteran Rangana Herath and three to Tharindu Kaushal — for just 112 runs just shows how ill-equipped the current lot is in handling spin bowling. It was not like every ball from Herath was spitting fire or Kaushal — playing in just his fourth Test — was throwing up something mysterious, it simply was a case of Indian batsmen’s indecisiveness in countering the turning ball.

Once a nation that played spinners for fun and made a mockery of their averages, the current crop has somehow been found wanting time and again. During India’s tour of England last July-August, it was not pacers James Anderson or Stuart Broad who tormented them more, but off-spinner Mooen Ali who ended up with 19 wickets at an average of 23. In all the five matches of that series, Ali, a part-time spinner until then, had the Indians in all sorts of problems.

Unable to read the line or length, they either fell victims from the crease or perished whenever they tried to attack him. Simply, neither defence worked nor attack as the Indians, who started the series with a superb win in the Lord’s Test, left bruised and battered.

Last December-January, in the series against Australia, it was again a spinner who tormented them. Offie Nathan Lyon, certainly not in the same league as that of legends such as Muttaiah Muralitharan or Saqlain Mushtaq, finished the four-match series with a rich haul of 23 wickets, including two five-wicket hauls and one ten-wicket show in a match.

In fact, even in the opening Test match here at Galle, the Indians appeared totally clueless against the exprienced Herath and newbie Kaushal. Yes, they bowled probing spells and kept a tight leash on them, but the intensity that even Amit Mishra showed was completely lacking from some of the top-order batsmen. Two LBWs, one bowled, four caught to close-in fielders, showed how badly they were trapped in the web of spin.

Footwork, the key to handling spin, was conspicuous by its absence, driving home the fact how inconfident this new generation is in stepping out of the crease.

Rohit Sharma, holder of two Test centuries, was out of sorts during his 16-ball vigil and finally fell prey when he completely misread Hearth’s classic left-armer’s delivery, the ball pitching in middle and clipping his off stump.

nt is the lack of quality spinners domestically. Barring Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha and Mishra, there aren’t many and with even Harbhajan Singh in the twilight of his career, the batsmen just don’t end up getting the necessary education during their formative years.
Compare that to the previous generations where at least a dozen high-class spinners plied their trade on the domestic circuit that eventually made Indian batsmen such fantastic players of slow bowling, the situation now is not healthy.

Another factor is BCCI’s insistence on preparing pacer-friendly tracks for the domestic competition in order to make Indians better travellers. While that idea by the Board is indeed appreciative, it is coming  at the cost of sacrificing our strength.

Look at the situation now. While there is a long list of pace bowlers — many who have played international cricket and some waiting in the wings — the line of spinners is a very short one. Three are there in touring party but beyond them, hardly anyone inspires confidence.

Once India’s major strength, sadly it is becoming their big weakness. It’s time India started looking out at their spin resources, largely for the the benefit of the batsmen.

Binny to join squad in Lanka

All-rounder Stuart Binny will be joining the Indian team in Sri Lanka as the 16th member ahead of the second Test starting in Colombo on Thursday, reports DHNS from Colombo.

Sources in the team management said there were no injury worries to any of the four pacers and the 31-year-old will just be an additional member.
 Binny has played three Tests so far.

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