India's plans for a spin ambush at home against England misfired as the visitors rode on their prowess in that department to clinch the Test series 2-1 late last year. India are again expected to bank on spin as they prepare to tackle an Australia side much less experienced playing in the sub-continent.
While left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha took 20 wickets to R Ashwin's 14 against England, the off-break bowler is facing a crisis of confidence. He was criticised for trying too many things. Harbhajan Singh, one short of his 100th Test, is also nowhere near his past best.
Erapalli Prasanna, a member of the famed Indian spin quartet, blamed Ashwin for his current plight. He was critical of the India spinners but felt they should still get the job done against a weak batting line-up.
On the challenge for India spinners against Australia
The selectors have picked three spinners, but luckily they will be bowling to an experimental side of Australia. There is an advantage for India there as they will be bowling against an inexperienced team and so I expect them to do well.
On Ashwin facing criticism of trying too many things
It is Ashwin who has asked for it. He is the one who has been talking about the carom ball, this and that.
On his slump in bowling
See, to add insult to injury, he has not been consistent at all, either in terms of length or line. How can anyone set a field in such a situation? Anyway, he is not setting the fields himself and the captain has to do it. Also, people are attributing it (poor performances) to all the variations he is trying out. On the other hand, the word variation itself means different things, and that is also something he has to understand. There are different types of deliveries as well as bowling different lengths and varying the flight.
On Harbhajan's prospects
Whether he will get to play or not is very important. We have to see whether they would prefer to go in with two spinners or three. This issue should be sorted out quickly by the captain.
On playing three spinners
When three spinners have played, Dhoni has been unable to utilise all of them effectively. (In the Mumbai Test against England, Ojha and Ashwin bowled around 40 overs each and Harbhajan half that number). If three spinners are included, Dhoni should be able to give them all a fair deal. Otherwise, it will only make matters worse.
On the decline of spin bowling
The intent to produce spinners is not there. When there is no effort, then you won't find it when you want. That is why now we are in a situation where we can neither say we are very strong in the fast bowling department or in spin. It is okay when we play in India. But when we play outside the country, we should be extremely strong in one of the areas. The BCCI needs to address this issue.
On India's bowling focus
I would say we should focus totally on spin. Out of the 80 overs before the next new ball is taken, some 50-60 overs have to be bowled in the middle. If you take that component into account, then if you focus on spin, you will be at an advantage.