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India have reasons to worry: Holding

Bowlers will have to look beyond the swing and seam option, else the tour will end up as sour experience.

india Updated: May 27, 2006 21:58 IST

India has lost the one-day series and they must now fear the Tests too. A lot of it of course must be put down to conditions which the visitors clearly have not come to terms with so far.

Indians are used to playing on pitches which are slow in the sub-continent but the ones in the Caribbean are now even slower. It requires the batsmen to bat in a certain way and for the bowlers to use a certain length. The batsmen must learn to be patient for runs would not be easy to come by.

Indian bowlers will have to look beyond the regular swing and seam option. Otherwise, this Caribbean tour will end up as another sour experience.

Still, nobody had foreseen Brian Lara and his men's resurgence. The past did not suggest so nor the formidable reputation with which Indians arrived to these shores. It is their first major win in 21 months and should cheer up countless fans in the Caribbean who yearn for the glory of the past.

Lara's men did a lot of things right. They got only better and better and by the fourth game, partnerships were being forged in the middle and bowling combinations were keeping the Indians down.

Most of the major batsmen have now some runs under their belt and even someone like Dwayne Bravo would be in a better frame of mind. His bowling has been his usual sprightly self and he made some handsome strokes in the middle in the fourth game.

All the top four Indian batsmen, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif, had their moments in the sun but there was not enough partnerships. The lower half too came unstuck and the final overs usually yielded less runs and cost more wickets. It could be that the Indians came with pre-conceived notions of scoring a set number of runs and overlooked the conditions they were up against.

There surely is a hint that Indians now feel they could be found out on this tour. They have hired Dr Rudi Webster to help them on the mental side of the game, a lot of it of course would involve knowing the conditions in Caribbean intimately. It is a young side which is just finding out the challenges, alien conditions could pose to them.

I guess the hiring of Webster, one of the eminent backroom boys when the West Indies were steamrolling everyone in sight in the 80s and early 90s, and one who continued to make his presence felt in the Shell Cricket Academy in Grenada, is perfectly in accordance with how strategies and specialists help are sought in modern cricket. I, though, am a bit old fashioned and you would be disappointed if you expect me to praise this move.

India, though, would have reasons to worry about their bowling. Sreesanth, Irfan Pathan and Munaf Patel are all young seamers and Ajit Agarkar is the only one experienced among them. Agarkar did use his experience to good use, preferring to cut down his pace and rely more on guile. Now that Agarkar would head back for home, their cause is not much helped.

Indians, much to their chagrin, have found out that wickets here do not seam as much. They have sought to counter it by the other extreme of having three spinners in the side for the Test matches. I do not see teams these days packing their side with three spinners unless and until the wickets are clearly designed to help slow bowlers. It would not be the case in the Caribbean certainly.

Two spinners perhaps are a must in these conditions but three are one too many. Spinners can make important breakthroughs but I do not back them to run through the sides. You still need a couple of good fast bowlers to get past obdurate lower half batsmen. Spinners can bowl 60 overs in a day but you still need 30 overs of purposeful pace.

I hope India would make allowance for this factor while planning their Test moves. A few overs of spin could always be bowled by the likes of Yuvraj Singh. But it would be dangerous to treat spin as the way to go forward in the Caribbean. India better watch out.

(Former West Indian fast bowler Michael Holding's column for PTI)

First Published: May 27, 2006 21:15 IST