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Spinners a worry for India: Hooper

Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh are proven match-winners but they haven't been a force in the first two games of this one-day series.

india Updated: Nov 11, 2002 17:10 IST

It is natural for the Indians to feel a bit concerned about their main spinners. Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh are proven match-winners but they haven't been a force in the first two games of this one-day series.

Sourav Ganguly has a headache in this area.

Let us first discount the handicaps which any bowler, spin or pace, face in a one-day arena. You could have attacking fields in Test cricket but one-dayers leave you with no such support. Spinners suffer more since there are less close-in catchers.

Also, unlike pacemen, they don't get many of their victims by way of bowled.

The wickets in the first two games have been good one-day strips. It hasn't given the Indian spinners the kind of assistance they enjoyed in the Test series. They have seen far better days in the past than they have in the last two games. It has been the batters' turn to hold centrestage.

The worry for Indians is that not only these fine bowlers have failed to take wickets, they have also gone for runs. They are the leading Indian bowlers yet have gone for five-six runs an over. It is not easy to replace them either. It is difficult to opt for such an extreme option.

The next World Cup will be staged in South Africa and as we all know the wickets there are seamer-friendly. Both India and West Indies could have a problem in spin area. Both prefer to have 20 of their 50 overs bowled by spin bowlers. In India's case, with someone like Virender Sehwag turning his arm over, it could be more than half of your overs bowled by tweakers. This is an area which India needs to examine closely.

There is no need to write off the spinners on the basis of just two one-day games. They are match winners in their own right. Still, both Kumble and Harbhajan will need to bowl much better to be a force not only in this remaining series but also in world's premier event next year.

India has also experimented with their batting line-up in the first two games. Ajit Agarkar has come in at number three position and I can understand their point of view. They want to be flexible with their seven batters and try out different combinations so everyone knows what one could be asked to do in a particular situation during the World Cup. One needs to experiment to test the nuts and bolts of a team for a tournament as major as World Cup.

It is important to ensure though that in this quest for experiment, the team's confidence is not damaged by a run of defeats. A team should prefer to go to South Africa with the confidence of having played good one-day cricket, preferably the winning type.

I had little hesitation to opt to field first on winning the toss in the second game. These are small grounds and it is difficult to know what is a good score on these fields. You could make a score in excess of 300 and still not be sure if it is a safe total.

The wickets have been good and all it needs is for two batters to have a partnership going. If two batsmen fire together early in the innings, it becomes easier for the following batsmen to pace the tempo accordingly.

India are still not out of this series and they are good enough to come back any time. But they have played a lot of cricket in this past few months and a few of them could be jaded. A couple of their regulars, Sachin Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan, are also missing. But it is no excuse for losing matches. The team needs to find its own motivation to stop a downward slide. Nobody accepts failure these days.

As for us, we are happy at this marvelous start to the one-day series. Our batting is beginning to jell well and it would look still better when Brian Lara is back. It looks to be a good nucleus for the World Cup.

Barring an injury or two, we are in the process of identifying the men we will need for the World Cup. VasbertVasbert Drakes is experienced and on a given day could perform the role of a genuine all-rounder - an all-round cricketer every team needs in one-day arena.

The match wasn't over without a few worrying glances at the stands. Fortunately, it wasn't as bad as Jamshedpur. I don't think they should be spoiling a good day's cricket. (Press Trust of India)

First Published: Nov 11, 2002 17:01 IST