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HindustanTimes Sun,20 Apr 2014

Cricket Columns

Ignoring spinners a defensive move
Aakash Chopra, Hindustan Times
October 30, 2012
First Published: 23:39 IST(30/10/2012)
Last Updated: 11:12 IST(31/10/2012)

Till a few years ago, thinking of the visiting team as unequal was a practice in the Indian domestic circuit. The guest team would reach the venue a couple of days in advance only to find that the track assigned for practice was either too wet or left under-prepared.

While the hosts always practiced on good pitches, the visitors learnt to make the most of what was given to them. To add to this, they were never given the option of choosing the time for practice - they were just 'informed' about the timing, as the hosts always consumed the preferred time slots. For example, places in the North, where there's a lot of dew in the morning, visiting teams would be given the morning slot, and in hot places down south, they would be told to practice in the afternoon. The good practice bowlers would be assigned to the hosts and the visitors would get second-rate bowlers for the net sessions.

These petty things were done to ensure that the visitors didn't get a proper feel of the conditions and hence were left undercooked. But since match referees are given more powers these days, such incidents are rare.
On the same lines, the Indian selectors, by not including a spinner for the India 'A' game against England, have reminded me of those days when visitors were at the hosts' mercy.

England, just like those visiting teams, reached India well in advance to prepare for the Test series. In this day and age, when warm-up games are becoming extinct with each passing day, they requested for as many as three games before the first Test. But, even three may not be enough, for the only quality spinners they are likely to play before the Tests are the ones they have in their squad.

The idea behind not including a spinner is to deny the England batsmen practice ahead of the Test series. While it could be seen as an act of tact, it also exposes our defensive mindset.

By denying England practice against spinners, aren't we also robbing the likes of Harbhajan Singh, Amit Mishra and Piyush Chawla an opportunity to stake a claim to the Test team? If we really wanted to play mind games, we could've fielded three spinners for India 'A' on a slightly turning pitch

By not including a spinner for the warm-up tie, we've set a wrong precedent. We must not cry foul when England or any other team does something similar when we tour their country.
The writer is former India opener


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