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India must win big: Sterner tests ahead

The victory in the first Test was a comprehensive one and India need to repeat the same to be ready for sterner battles ahead, writes Sunil Gavaskar.

india Updated: Sep 21, 2005 12:00 IST
Sunil Gavaskar
Sunil Gavaskar

The Indians return to battle after spending a day or two at the scenic Victoria Falls, where hopefully there was also time for everybody to reflect on what's happened off the field and how it can affect on-field performance.

It's quite clear that neither of the parties involved in the drama were the ones to leak the news to the media, and it's here that Indian cricket has a problem, for there are far too many stirrers of the pot within the team to help matters.

Luckily, Zimbabwe are not a testing opposition and so a few distractions will not affect the team as much as it would against stronger sides.

Zimbabwe's best bet is to leave some grass on the pitch. This can help their seam bowlers, especially Heath Streak who can bend the ball a bit more and also get it to bounce if he receives some assistance from the pitch. The wicket at Bulawayo was a flat one for the seam bowlers and India had no problems in negotiating the new ball, while the spin attack of Ewing and Dabengwa was a piece of cake for the players brought up on spinning pitches.

If the Harare wicket lives up to its reputation, and the groundsman leaves a bit more grass, then the hosts can go in with an extra seam bowler in Ireland and drop a spinner. More importantly, somebody has to take Blignaut aside and tell him he doesn't have the pace to frighten anybody and so should be bowling a fuller length rather than trying to bounce the Indians out.

In a short series like this one, there's little opportunity to experiment and so there won't be too many changes in both sides. There's a case for Kaif to be included, but it can only be at the expense of Yuvraj and the team management won't want to do that. If the grass stays on the pitch, then Balaji might play but again it will be tough to decide which of the spinners to drop. Harbhajan has just taken his 200th wicket -- in the fastest time by an Indian bowler -- and Kumble's record is just too good to leave him out.

There was some talk of playing five bowlers in the one-dayers in Sri Lanka, where one actually needs to play four bowlers with one or two of the batsmen turning their arms over as the fifth bowler. But at Test level, India can play five bowlers.

The Australians play with four bowlers with Gilchrist coming in at No. 7 and if India has someone of that ability, they then can afford to play with five bowlers. Perhaps, if Dhoni comes into the reckoning during the season, that might be an option, but as of now one can see India going in with four bowlers in the Test.

Irrespective of the pitch, the batsmen who missed out -- the two openers and Rahul Dravid -- will surely be looking to make up for not getting to three figures in the previous Test by getting a big one this time. Sehwag, who has been under the weather here, needs a big score to put him in good stead for the Super Series in Australia next month, as does Dravid. Having said that, it's true that when one is not challenged by an attack, a casualness does crop into the batting and one mistake can mean watching others make the runs you missed out on.

The victory in the first Test was a comprehensive one and India need to repeat the same to be ready for sterner battles ahead, for it's a season where there's plenty likely to happen, on and off the field.

First Published: Sep 20, 2005 18:42 IST