Kumble? I would run!
If I were batting against him, I would grab a single and get to the other end, writes Geoffrey Boycott.india Updated: Mar 14, 2006 23:37 IST
In the end, the Kumble factor proved decisive, as it so often does in India. Sourav Ganguly got it spot on some time ago when he called Kumble a champion. Particularly in Indian conditions, he is the best bowler in the world because he knows how to bowl on the slow-paced tracks, and that makes him a far better bowler in these conditions than Shane Warne or Muttiah Muralitharan, neither of whom have a decent record in this country.
If I were batting against Kumble in India, I would just grab a single and get down to the other end as quickly as I could! Against the 500-wickets man, all England had to offer was a raw novice who got three in his first Test. Don't get me wrong, I'm not belittling Monty Panesar, but he stood no chance against an attack that has grown up on spin, and to even consider a contest with Kumble's 9-146 was absurd.
To be fair, Harbhajan Singh and Piyush Chawla were no great trouble to the England batsmen either, which is why Kumble deserves all the more credit. On these flat tracks, he bowls so quickly that if you don't read the line right, you're doomed.
The other Indian bowler who impressed me was obviously Munaf Patel. He looks a fantastic prospect - tall, with a good run-in, he has the ability to bowl well with the new ball, as well as extract reverse swing with the old one, and that's a huge plus.
It didn't help that the England batsmen made some elementary mistakes, and this has been a worrying feature ever since the Pakistan series. Look at the way Andrew Strauss nicked a delivery that was short and wide, or the way Ian Bell simply failed to read the googly and padded up to Kumble, or the way Paul Collingwood poked tentatively at one from Kumble and edged it to Dravid. These were basic errors and unless England bat better to make up for the lack of spinners, their pacers will have a tough time.
Only Andrew Flintoff looked like being able to tackle Kumble, and this he did by taking a big stride forward to smother the spin. His was an outstandingly disciplined innings but he needed help. Likewise, England's three spinners are among the best in the world, but they can't keep taking all the wickets.
At Mohali, they got the batsmen out of jail by bowling India out for 338 - a 38-run lead wasn't really that significant under the circumstances - but 180 in the second innings was never going to be enough.
As it is, in India, a visiting team dependant on seam as England has to make the best of winning the toss by posting at least 450 in the first innings, because you can be sure that your seamers are not going to have much effect on days four and five, which will belong to the spinners, so if you don't have spinners, your batsmen must come good.
So England need to look at their batting, while India need to investigate why Harbhajan Singh is bowling with zero zip, turn and bounce. His confidence is taking a beating because he simply is not getting the wickets, and if he can't come good in India, he can't anywhere.