It's not difficult to fathom why the Indian spinners haven't been as good as their English counterparts this series. If defensive mentality is one reason, inability to adapt to the home wickets too has been their bane.
Indian spinner Pragyan Ojha in action during third day's play of third crikcet test against England at Eden Gardens in Kolkata. UNI
Though captain MS Dhoni keeps harping on spinners being his best
bet against England, Ojha's statements after the third day's play suggested confusion over his role --- a wicket-taking bowler or one who is happy restricting runs.
With Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott starting from where they had left on Thursday, Ojha stuck to a defensive line. He explained: “This wicket wasn't doing much. So I had to bowl to my field and not give easy runs. Yesterday, I was trying a bit to get early wickets but then I spoke to myself today and also last night also that I shouldn't be giving them easy runs.”
In two minds
Coming from India's current leading spinner, it was confusing and more so because there was a rough created by Zaheer Khan at the High Court end.
“I think firstly I tried bowling round the wicket to Cook. It was a bit easy for him since he was sweeping. But when I came over the wicket I was trying to bowl middle and middle-leg. It's difficult for him to sweep since leg-before comes into play,” said Ojha, only to contradict himself later by saying “I have never tried to restrict the batsmen but I don't like to give a batsman easy runs.”
He got two wickets on Friday and hadn't Trott gone after a ball wide outside the off-stump which was spinning away further, Ojha could have ended the day with only Samit Patel's scalp.
This surface being different from Mumbai or Ahmedabad, it also requires a bit of flexibility from the spinners.
Asked about the pace Monty Panesar imparts, Ojha straightaway said it was impossible to ape. “Monty bowls with that pace. It's natural to him. A guy like me or Ashwin, we can never bowl at that pace because our pace is different. You can't ask someone who is bowling at 80-82 kmph just to come directly to a game, an important game, and bowl 100kmph. That's impossible I feel.”
But unlike Panesar, who bowled a fuller length to negate the decrease of pace due to the slow Eden Gardens pitch, the India spinners didn't show much enterprise. Conceding that Panesar had done extremely well in Indian conditions, Ojha however wanted to be positive.
“The first game he got 11 wickets and now he has got four, so he's doing very well. But Ashwin and I are trying very hard. The effort is tremendous,” said Ojha. Yet, Panesar continues to be England's lead bowler, with a better strike rate and lower average than Indian spinners.