A master when it came to exploiting Indian pitch conditions, India coach Anil Kumble faces the challenge of reading the pitch for the second Test and sort out the hosts’ spin plan after the Rajkot Test was drawn.
Former skipper and India’s highest Test wicket-taker saw the spinners struggle on a grassy pitch in the first Test, but will have to ensure they turn things around on a barren Vizag surface where the slow bowlers are expected to dominate.
The constant monitoring and attention to detail on the pitch became irritating to watch after a while on Tuesday. And the course of the second Test could ultimately boil down to who reads the pitch best and decides on the line-up. For India, that man is Kumble.
The best man
Skipper Virat Kohli had acknowledged that during the Caribbean tour in the summer. “Anil bhai is very good at understanding what the pitch will do on Day 3, 4 and 5. Day 1 and 2, most pitches have similar pace but then you need to be sure of what’s going to happen so that you have the exact bowlers who are going to be effective at that stage,” he had said.
The Vizag pitch appears dry on top with some moisture beneath. It shouldn’t take too long for the surface to come loose, and fissures and cracks to develop.
A few more roughs created near the crease by the bowlers’ foot marks should leave the spinners primed to wreak havoc within a few sessions. Kumble has seen different types of pitches as a player, and exploited them all. But as coach, he not only has to pick the right combination but also has to ensure his spinners finish on top here.
This is the most challenging assignment since Kumble took over as coach, ahead of the West Indies tour, simply because of the talent in the England team. And despite their tepid show in Rajkot, Kumble didn’t want to sound negative about his spinners.
“It isn’t like since England’s spinners are more effective because they took more wickets. We did play for 160 overs. We play to take 20 wickets and win,” Kumble said on Tuesday when asked if he thought India were playing into England’s hands by preparing a spin-friendly pitch.
India do have a situation on their hands, especially with Amit Mishra. He bowled the least overs in Rajkot but had the worst economy. Leg spinners tend to concede more runs but at this point in the series, India would like Mishra to hit the right line and length.
Considering how the ball spun on the practice pitches, the track earmarked for the Test should do its bit. His contributions with the bat make off-spinner R Ashwin indispensable, but it is imperative India look to make their three spinners hunt as a team. And since it’s basically involves keeping them upbeat, there is no one more qualified than Kumble to that job.