The drawn Rajkot Test seems to have set the alarm bells ringing in the Indian camp, but the hosts will also be wary that falling back on turning pitches to help their spinners take charge against England could backfire.
Although India were criticised for laying out turners in last year’s 3-0 series win over South Africa and the recent rout of New Zealand (3-0), the hosts seem to be falling back on their trusted formula.
On Monday, HT correspondent saw grass being shaved off the pitch at Visakhapatnam three days ahead of the second Test. It is clear Virat Kohli’s team believes spinners must be given all the help to deliver victory in this revenge series.
INDIA SPINNERS UPSTAGED
In Rajkot, on a grassy pitch, India’s spin attack, led by R Ashwin, was left a touch embarrassed as the England trio, tutored by former Pakistan spin great, Saqlain Mushtaq, fared much better.
Leg-spinner Adil Rashid took seven wickets as the visiting side’s spinners shared 13 scalps against nine by India’s trio. They also looked tactically more assured, and in the end, Kohli was happy his team showed how to hold on for a draw.
When England arrived, their spin attack was seen as weak. But India will be wary, considering what happened against the same opponents four years ago, and how their spin tactics backfired even 30 years ago.
TURNING IT AROUND
On England’s 2012-13 tour, India, 1-0 up after winning the opening Test in Ahmedabad, faced the visitors on a turning track in Mumbai. But Kevin Pietersen and skipper Alastair Cook stood out against India’s spinners before off-spinner Graeme Swann and left-arm Monty Panesar spun the team to victory.
Swann and Panesar, who was not picked for the first Test, shared 19 wickets while Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha and Harbhajan Singh accounted for 14. More importantly, Indian batsmen didn’t counter spin effectively.
Pace spearhead James Anderson then produced masterful swing bowling in the third Test at the Eden Gardens, providing excellent support to the spinners, as England sealed the four-match series with a game left.
For once, MS Dhoni and his men realised their main weapon, spin, didn’t provide them the cutting edge. So, it will be interesting how Virat Kohli and Co tackle the challenge.
On the 1987 home Test series against Pakistan, criticism of dull pitches after four draws in a row forced India to throw caution to the winds and prepare a rank turner for the final match in Bengaluru.
India’s left-arm spinner Maninder Singh took a 10-wicket haul, but Pakistan spinners Tauseef Ahmed and left-arm Iqbal Qasim shared 18 wickets to clinch a tense 16-run win. Sunil Gavaskar’s brilliant 96 in his farewell Test innings almost sealed victory for India but they fell just short.