Is the wicket as bad or good as the batsmen make it out to be? The same can be said of the bowlers, who ply their trade in the hope that the wicket will provide them assistance in taking wickets. But unless bowlers have the skill and craft to exploit the conditions, howsoever favourable, wickets are not going to fall on their own.
These questions cropped up on the second day of the Mumbai Test, where the wicket was turning sharply and bouncing as well, yet the batsmen were not totally out of business. (HIGHLIGHTS)
The conditions were such that you would have expected Ravichandran Ashwin and his equally able partner Ravindra Jadeja to run through the England side. That England did not cave in and managed to score 400 runs was not a commentary on Ashwin or Jadeja’s inadequacy, but spoke well of batsmen prepared to grind it out and not let adverse conditions get to them.
The two Indian spinners may have shared the ten English wickets, but Virat Kohli may not have been exactly celebrating, knowing well that batting on this track would not be easy. (SCORECARD)
The question uppermost in Alastair Cook’s mind must have been how good are his own spinners in making the wicket look as diabolical as it did when his team was batting on it?
Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid can be a perfect combination on tracks like these: one turning the ball into the batsmen, the other spinning it away and also mixing it with occasional straight ones and googlies.
But are they good enough to do an Ashwin or a Jadeja on the Indians?
The Indian batsmen, unlike say the English batsmen, are much more used to playing the spinning ball and deal with them more competently than their counterparts. Examples of what Graeme Swan and Monty Panesar did to the Indians in 2012 are cited to prove that Indians are no longer good at playing spin. Yet, there can be no doubt that the Indians know their own home conditions better than the rest and can counter the spinning ball well.
This encounter is now a test for them to prove that they have the ability to tame the spinning fingers of Moeen and the variety that Adil’s wrists conjure up with the help of the dusty Wankhede wicket.
In doing so, the Indians would resort more to attack than defence as Murali Vijay and KL Rahul showed the moment the two England spinners were introduced into the attack. Discretion here is not the better part of valour, aggression being the natural response in adversity.
The question that will crop up again and again as the Test wears on, is will India be able to stand up to this test and win the battle? The answer would lie more in how India bats in the first innings and whether they concede or take the lead.
What these attacking methods have done so far is to force England into defense as Moeen and especially Rashid lack the control and accuracy of Ashwin and Jadeja. The tactics so far have worked and the wicket has not appeared as troublesome as it did when England batted on it.
Well, as Cheteshwar Pujara and Vijay have batted and India appear headed towards a lead, these could be still early days, as a figure of 400 is a tantalizing one. If early wickets don’t fall tomorrow, it is very much within grasp and if they do, not that easy to chase.