We may even play 4 spinners tomorrow: Shastri on first Test | cricket | Hindustan Times
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We may even play 4 spinners tomorrow: Shastri on first Test

Tomorrow you can play four spinners if you give me a pitch that will turn on the first day. There is no rule that you have to play fast bowlers. West Indies played four fast bowlers in their time. No spinners. What stops a team from playing four spinners if you get a track of that kind?”

India vs South Africa 2015 Updated: Nov 04, 2015 22:34 IST
Sai Prasad Mohapatra
Amit Mishra, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja during a practice session ahead of the first Test match against South Africa in Mohali.
Amit Mishra, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja during a practice session ahead of the first Test match against South Africa in Mohali.(PTI)

India’s first proper training session, for over two hours on a mildly sunny afternoon on Tuesday, told a thing or two about the team management’s thinking. The debate has been whether India should play to their strengths by opting for a turning track or the curator should produce what is termed a sporting track.

However, the nets were more in keeping with what team director Ravi Shastri told the media before the training session. It belied the impression that Shastri and skipper Virat Kohli would stick to their pet strategy of playing five bowlers.

The yellowing pitch, on which a lot of work is still being carried out for the first Test starting on Thursday, reinforced the belief that India might pick three spinners and a lone pacer.

Virat Kohli sharing a light moment with Ravindra Jadeja as Amit Mishra looks on during a practice session ahead of the first Test match against South Africa in Mohali on Wednesday. (PTI)

Shastri argued that the end justified the means. “It is not about five or four bowlers. It is about having a balance that can get you 20 wickets,” he said. “It depends on the pitch and weather conditions.

In Sri Lanka, we needed five bowlers because the heat was oppressive, and we could only win that series because we had that additional bowler.”

However, Shastri’s shift in strategy reflected the new situation. Neither can India afford a sporting wicket that would play into the hands of the opposition nor can they risk selecting only six batsmen and five bowlers.

Indian's Ravichandran Ashwin bowls during a practice session ahead of the first Test match against South Africa in Mohali on Wednesday. (PTI)

Par for the course

That somewhat makes the batting combination clear with Shikhar Dhawan, M Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli along with Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma forming the line-up. India can feel assured only if they include three spinners— R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Amit Mishra— with Umesh Yadav the lone pacer.

“At home you should play to your strengths and there is no need to hide behind that issue,” Shastri said. “It has been happening over the years, whenever teams have played in their countries. It is something that you expect.”

Will playing a single pacer be too little? Shastri is willing to take an even bolder step. “Tomorrow you can play four spinners if you give me a pitch that will turn on the first day. There is no rule that you have to play fast bowlers. West Indies played four fast bowlers in their time. No spinners. What stops a team from playing four spinners if you get a track of that kind?”

India's Rohit Sharma and Umesh Yadav (r) bat in the nets during a practice session ahead of the first Test match against South Africa in Mohali on Wednesday. (PTI)

Shastri claims the T20 and ODI series defeats have not touched the team. “We will play positive cricket, play to win. We won’t be intimidated by the opposition or their ranking (No 1).

What we want to do for the next four-five years is look to take every game forward with an aim to win it. For that you need to get 20 wickets. How you get them depends on the conditions and your combination.”

India's Stuart Binny bowls as team Director Ravi Shastri looks on during a practice session ahead of the first Test match against South Africa in Mohali on Wednesday. (PTI)

India’s Test engagement at home begins after close to two years— they last played at home in November 2013— and with many of the players having hardly played in India, reorientation to home conditions will start with this series, with the spinners leading the way.