In an ideal world, the talk around a cricket series would be about the strengths and weaknesses of the teams. In this series, however, the focus is on how the wicket would behave.
Perhaps, it has something to do with MS Dhoni's demand for rank turners. To be fair, the pitch that offers turn and bounce from the beginning does take toss out of equation, which is a good thing, but it also evens out the playing field.
There's a slight problem though with doctoring pitches to suit one's demands. Every pitch has its character and too much tinkering can backfire. Motera has never been a rank turner and to make it behave like one, the curator left it too dry and soft. This resulted in the bounce getting lower and the pitch slowing down too much.
While Wankhede’s red-soil pitch behaved the way Dhoni would've liked it to, it would be rather ambitious to expect that at the Eden Gardens for the pitch is made of black soil. The Kolkata pitch, if left dry, is likely to help spinners, but it won't have same bounce or pace as Wankhede.
Good teams tinker with their skill set to suit the conditions and not the other way around. Yes, the English spinners bowled brilliantly in Mumbai, but then the India batsmen are the world's finest players against the turning ball and hence should've dealt with Swann and Panesar better.
The writer is former India opener
A few tricks to playing spin
After India batsmen were found wanting against spin on the turning Mumbai track, here’s what they could consider to fare better in the next game...
Defend with soft hands
While the pace at the Wankhede pitch took every inside or outside edge straight into the close-in fielders' laps, that is unlikely to happen at Kolkata if the batsmen play with soft hands.
By soft hands I mean having a firm top hand but a really loose bottom hand while playing defensive shots.
The perils of playing too much of limited over cricket is that batsmen start using hard hands to push good balls into gaps for singles, but if you follow the same method in Test cricket on turning pitches, you're likely to be found out. The trick to playing with soft hands is to allow the ball to come to you and not rush/push towards it.
Get your feet moving
The best way to play spinners is to use the feet optimally. The moment the ball goes over the eye-line, it's time to put on the dancing shoes and get to the pitch of the ball. It'll be slightly easier to step down the track against Swann, for he bowls slower in the air. Though, Panesar needs to be dealt slightly differently because he bowls a lot flatter and quicker in the air. But even against him, the feet movement should be decisive — either reach to the pitch of the ball off the front-foot or go deep into the crease when he bowls slightly short. A neither-here-nor-there sort of foot movement often results in a defensive prod, and on turning pitches the ball finds the outside or the inside edge in such cases.
Aggression is the key
Everyone, barring Pujara, had trouble on Day One at Wankhede till R Ashwin walked in to bat. The way Ashwin batted changed the way English spinners operated. The same was true for KP against the Indian spinners. The only similarity between KP and Ashwin was their approach, which was to look for runs. Spinners enjoy bowling to batsmen who're glued to their crease and have a defensive mindset. The moment a batsman starts pouncing on anything that's loose, or starts using his feet to turn good balls into ones that can be hit, the spinners start pulling back a bit.