The move to introduce leg-spinner Imran Tahir much later in the innings has caused a lot of debate in the current series. Still, Tahir has picked up wickets whenever he has been given the opportunity to bowl. He took a fifer at Nagpur and four-for in the Mohali Test. He not only managed to break a 66-run partnership between Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli, but also picked up another three wickets in the space of four overs.
The rank turners at Mohali and Nagpur have attracted attention but the spinners from both sides have benefited immensely. Tahir is only third in the list of leading wicket-takers with 12 scalps, below Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. But surprisingly he has bowled just 52 overs in four completed India innings and their 22-over innings in Bengaluru — he bowled only two of them.
In contrast to the under-utilisation of South Africa’s main spinner, Ashwin has bowled 102 overs and Jadeja 82.5.
Numbers tell tale
The difference in the number of overs puts things into perspective. Proteas skipper Hashim Amla has been hesitant in using his best spinner. Being a bit quick through the air and with a tendency to bowl short, Tahir could leak runs, more so if given a slightly new ball.
In all three Tests, he has been mostly brought on after part-timers Dean Elgar and JP Duminy. Elgar might have struck at Mohali but once the wicket began to deteriorate, it was Tahir who made the difference.
He repeated his act it in Nagpur in the second innings. On the other hand, Kohli has used his spinners judiciously, and made them bowl with the new ball. The results are evident.
“In the last game, the reason I used Imran late was, my experience is that he has a tendency of leaking runs. He does pick up a wicket here or there. At times I go with my gut feel. Thankfully, I brought JP on and he got Pujara out in that over, but his next over went for some runs. Whenever I have brought him on, he has made an impact. People have said I would have brought him on earlier but should have or would have can go on for any decision in Test cricket,” said Amla.
Amla has his reasons, but in the final Test, he can take a chance of using Tahir upfront. Tahir was a part of Delhi Daredevils in the IPL and had put up a strong show. He took 15 wickets in the 2015 edition and will be someone with experience of bowling on the Kotla wicket.
Immediately after SA end this 72-day tour, they will be hosting England. A win will lift the side, but Amla will have to take some important decisions. Who knows, if Tahir clicks, SA might leave India with their heads held high.