Hyderabad dilemma: Who to play is the question
Despite a comfortable win in Chennai, there is a strong argument for making a few changes for the second Test to be played at Hyderabad's Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium from Saturday. Sanjjeev K Samyal reports.india Updated: Mar 01, 2013 10:33 IST
Cricket wisdom speaks against touching a winning XI. However, India may be tempted to go against it this time. Despite a comfortable win in Chennai, there is a strong argument for making a few changes for the second Test to be played at Hyderabad's Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium from Saturday.
Over the next two days, MS Dhoni and Duncan Fletcher face selection decisions mainly around the make-up of the attack. They have to choose between Harbhajan Singh, Ravindra Jadeja, Pragyan Ojha and Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
In all probability, India will stick to a three-pronged spin attack. But they have to decide whether to stick with Harbhajan or bring back Ojha, surprisingly left out of the first Test. The left-arm spinner was India's most successful bowler in the last Test series against England and the match is now at his home ground, where he has an impressive record.
Harbhajan's record against Australia is awesome but he has been going through a lean patch and even the landmark of 100th Test didn't inspire him enough in Chennai. On a spinner's pitch, his return of three wickets is below par and has left him vulnerable.
The last time India played here, Ojha complemented Ashwin well, taking three wickets in either innings to help India win inside four days. He is yet to make the transformation into a match-winning bowler, but is rated as the home team's most dependable bowler in sub-continent conditions.
Jadeja bowled well within himself at Chennai, but doesn't merit a place in the eleven purely on his bowling. His left-arm spin is wicket-to-wicket stuff aimed at containment. Unless the Saurashtra all-rounder gets runs at No 7, it will affect the balance of the batting line-up. The lack of runs from Jadeja may force the think-tank to consider a specialist batsman.
When the captain doesn't bring on the pace bowler until after 70 overs of the innings, one can imagine the role the pacers are going to play. On the slow, dead wickets, the pacer's role is reduced to taking the shine off of the new ball.
In the second innings at Chennai, they were not required to do even that as Dhoni opened the bowling with the spinners. Given that Ishant Sharma or Bhuvneshwar Kumar are not consistently good at extracting reverse swing with the old ball, there is a thought of going with a single pacer.
In batting, Dhoni will have to take a call on whether opener Murali Vijay is a long-term solution or to try out Shikhar Dhawan. Despite his twin failures in his comeback Test, the skipper has backed the Tamil Nadu opener. But it is not just the lack of runs; the manner of dismissals is also a concern as he looked a sitting duck against James Pattinson.
Australia have bigger concerns. As admitted by coach Mickey Arthur, they got the bowling combination wrong for the dry wicket. Michael Clarke named his playing XI two days in advance at Chennai. Here, he is likely to take his time to decide whether to include left-arm Xavier Doherty as the second spinner. Mitchell Johnson could also be considered after Peter Siddle and Mitchell Starc managed just one wicket between them. Starc could make way if Johnson is chosen.