Gautam Gambhir and Ajinkya Rahane runing between wicket during the first ODI cricket match against England in Rajkot. PTI/Shirish Shete
India’s narrow defeat in the first one-dayer against England on Friday projected a recent trend where top order batsmen have been upstaged by spinners, particularly off-break bowlers.
Few in the India camp would have lost sleep over James Tredwell, a 30-year-old journeyman, but Graeme Swann’s understudy captured four wickets on a perfect batting pitch here. As impressive as Tredwell’s numbers are — 4/44 in 10 overs on a belter — his dismissals too tell a tale. He snared four of the top five batsmen when after India had begun in solid fashion chasing 326.
Both Rahane and Gambhir, well set and the score at 66 for none in 10 overs, added just 30 runs in the next 6.3 overs between Tredwell and debutant Joe Root — better known for his batting — before Rahane mistimed a tossed up delivery to be caught at long off.
In the Yorkshire bowler’s next over, the 19th, he got Gambhir to miscue one that dipped to the midwicket fielder.
His dismissal of Yuvraj then showed it is not always about classical action and loop. Spin bowling in the frenetic limited-overs era is also about discipline. Tredwell kept up a leg stump line, bowling flat and a tad short, and the left-hander who was on fire turned one into the hands of short fine leg. Suresh Raina was then consumed at a crucial moment, beaten by one that gripped the pitch to give a return catch.
This should have been dismissed a blip had it not been for Pakistan off-spinner Saeed Ajmal taking five wickets in the previous ODI in Delhi, although the hosts won the close last game of the series already decided.
Former India spinner Maninder Singh did not read much into India batsmen falling to spin.
The hosts had also come off second best against Swann and Monty Panesar in the preceding Test series which England won 2-1.
“I don’t see Tredwell being that successful in this series. In Rajkot, our batsmen took him to be an ordinary bowler and played him that way. Sometimes you can lose your way,” he said. He also felt Ajmal’s controversial bent elbow gave him undue advantage. “If he is allowed to bowl with that bent arm, it’s difficult to manipulate him.”
The recent successes by visiting spinners marks a sea change in a battle that used to be unequal, where India batsmen danced down the pitch to give the treatment. The current setbacks mean the team management has one extra area to work on, particularly on the footworkof the batsmen. Otherwise, rival teams will look to rein in the home batsmen with slow bowlers as well and chip away at India’s home superiority.
England skipper Alastair Cook, who saw the Rajkot win as a reward for his bowlers’ skill, provided some food for thought to the hosts. “That little bowling partnership between Tredders and Joe Root really took the sting out of their batting,” he said.
What about Tredwell himself? “I was just trying to stem the flow of runs and build up pressure on the batsmen, not allow them to swing the ball over the top.”