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Adding a spin to the tale

MS Dhoni says playing five bowlers is a possibility in the fourth & final Test, reports Atreyo Mukhopadhyay.

cricket Updated: Jan 23, 2008 18:10 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay

If victory solves problems and answers questions, it's not necessarily the case with India. Apart from handing the visitors a chance to square the series, the demolition of Australia in Perth has left them confronting a tricky situation — whether to retain the winning combination or bring in Harbhajan Singh by either dropping a medium-pacer or a batsman.

Of all the possibilities, asking one of Irfan Pathan, Ishant Sharma and RP Singh to sit out after their impressive showing in the third Test looks unlikely, as of now, although none from the team are saying much on this.

If all three stay and India still bring in the off-spinner, Wasim Jaffer is most likely to get the axe and that leads to another question —who opens then?

Facing the media at the Adelaide Oval on Tuesday, MS Dhoni didn't disclose anything substantial, saying that the decision would be taken after an inspection of the pitch.

But he did say that using five bowlers was a possibility. "It's a thought yes, but just a thought at the moment, nothing more than that."

The vice-captain, however, added that personally, he wasn't averse to the idea of strengthening the bowling department. "You can take such a decision only after assessing the situation. You have to consider who your batsmen are, how they are performing and what other batting resources you have. After that, if you see that things are okay, I think it helps to use five bowlers in a Test match."

But it would still be quite premature to say that India are going to field five bowlers because the problem that props up in that eventuality is pretty severe.

Although Jaffer hasn't practically scored anything on this tour so far, dropping him wouldn't be easy, for it would mean bringing Rahul Dravid up again after he scored 93 in Perth batting at his favourite No. 3 slot. There are whispers that Pathan may be asked to open, but nothing has crystallised on this front either.

Dhoni was also asked to comment on the composition of the ODI team, but he refused to speak on that. "Let's get over with the Test series first. We will talk about the one-day series and the team we have picked only after that. There is some serious Test cricket still left in this series."

On that, India's ODI captain said: "Winning in Perth was big, but we have left it behind because it's important to get back to normal and concentrate on what lies ahead. It will sure do a lot of good to our confidence but we know that to win here, we have to start from scratch and play well in most of the sessions. Whether we can level the series will depend on how we play here. It's not the time to look back."

But Dhoni did speak on the positives to have emerged from the victory. "We have identified the areas where we must bowl. The Australians know these conditions inside out and it was important from that point of view for us to figure out where to bowl in order to trouble them. We have seen that our best chance lies in swinging the ball and we have also worked out the areas where to swing it from."

Asked whether he had intentionally changed his style of batting and was concentrating on long hours at the wicket, Dhoni answered in the affirmative. "When I come in to bat, the ball usually loses shine and the bowlers try to keep it outside off as far as possible. So, I have to check my strokeplay. It also depends on situations when the team needs me to stay at the wicket which means I have to curb my instinct."