The Indians had little gains from their rain-curtailed game against England Lions on Saturday, their last ahead of the seven-match series against England, at the Northants County Cricket ground. After all, their man of the series in the Test series, Zaheer Khan, was hit all over the park for 57 runs off just seven overs.
Ajit Agarkar and Munaf Patel were also expensive. Not only did the Lions' top order — skipper Vikram Solanki and the new hitman of English cricket, Luke Wright — make a mockery of the Indian pace attack, even tailenders Chris Schofield and Tim Bresnan scored at will.
The only reason to smile for the Indian contingent was the performance of the spin duo, off-spinner Ramesh Powar and leg-spinner Piyush Chawla. They say bowlers work in pairs, and the combination — of an offie and a leggie — did just that. They did concede 104 runs, 52 each, off 20 overs, but more importantly, got rid of four main English batsmen.
Powar, who doesn't necessarily need a turning track to be effective being a flight bowler, was the more successful one as he got rid of Wright, looking ominous, Ian Bell and Owais Shah — both members of the England ODI squad. Chawla then removed skipper Solanki, who was looking to lay a perfect anchor to the Lions' innings after a good start.
Powar admitted he would prefer bowling with Chawla as much as he can. "I never think of bowling with Piyush that way," he replied to a question on whether he considers Chawla as a competitor. "In fact if we bowl together the variation is good since one is an off-spinner and the other a leg-spinner. As a player I want to play with Piyush every game."
Rookie Chawla, who showed signs of his maturity when he performed splendidly in unfriendly conditions in Belfast, responded: "It makes no difference to me if I am bowling with a spinner or a pace bowler."
Conceding that conditions were not on their side as "it is difficult to grip the ball", Powar added that they "were trying hard to practice that". It looks like the spinners may well prove to be the decisive factor in the ODI series. And both Powar and Chawla were ready for the challenge.
"I have seen a few England players before and I will try to work on it. I need to get all of them out, no particular target as such," Chawla said. Powar, who has played England earlier, said: "I have played a series against them in India. I think it will be a good series, they are very competitive guys."