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By G Krishnan
From the great heights of Lord’s to the deeper woods of Ageas Bowl in a matter of 10 days, Indian cricket team has seen it all. From winning at the Home of Cricket by 95 runs to an abject 266-run surrender in the port city where Titanic was built, MS Dhoni & Co. have lost the advantage of staying in line for a rare series victory in England.
This shows how much India missed Ishant Sharma and that a combined experience of 16-Test experience of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami prior to the Southampton Test could not win a match in the swinging conditions of England.
Perhaps here is where Umesh Yadav, the Vidarbha pacer with 32 wickets in nine Tests and who was instead sent to Australia for India ‘A’ first-class fixtures, would have come handy.
Some of Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s selections are difficult to understand. When Ishant was unfit for the third Test, Dhoni should have straightaway gone in for R Ashwin, who is a regular and for that reason a better off-spinner than a part-timer Rohit Sharma.
Furthermore, Ashwin would not bat any worse than Rohit eventually did, throwing away his wicket in the first innings of the third Test. Remember, Ashwin has two Test hundreds like the Mumbai batsman Rohit, who has not done enough justice to his batting potential.
In the end, with whatever turn the pitch offered, England part-timer Moeen Ali picked up six Indian second innings wickets. Having failed to capitalise on the 1-0 advantage and allowing England to bounce back, the way ahead at Old Trafford (August 7-11) and The Oval (August 15-19) will be all the more difficult for Dhoni & Co.
Pace guru from Chennai, TA Sekar, was not surprised with the result in the third Test. “India needs experienced fast bowlers. We can’t experiment at this stage. We already have a debutant in Pankaj Singh. We cannot have two debutants with the off-colour Bhuvneshwar and Shami. You need somebody who can bowl 140-plus and get past the bat with sheer pace.”
“Also, I don’t think the Indian team was concentrating on reverse swing when it was there. The ball was reversing for England. The pitch was not that green, it became rough but I did not see Indians bowl reverse. The Indian bowling has not been up to the mark. What is the point in beating the batsmen? They should get wickets.”
Ashwin sitting in the dug out instead of playing baffled the former Test pacer. “If our fast bowlers are not effective, why wasn’t Ashwin picked? There is not much of a difference between (Ravindra) Jadeja and Ashwin. This is not a Twenty20 cricket to fill up one or two overs, this is Test cricket. And, the pitches in England are assisting spin,” said Sekar.
The key to fast bowling in England is to hit the seam, Sekar pointed out. “In England, you hit the seam. Pankaj is not a great mover of the ball, bowls the odd ball close to 140kmph but does not hit the seam like what Umesh does. Look at the seam position of (James) Anderson or like what S Sreesanth or Zaheer Khan used to do. That is why they are able to move the ball.”
It remains to be seen if India call for a replacement for Ishant, who has been ruled out for the fourth Test by Dhoni. If there is a replacement summoned, would it be Yadav? The Vidarbha pacer has played as recently as the second week of July, unlike Pandey and Aaron, who are in the Indian squad but last played in a competitive match on July 1 in the warm-up match against Derbyshire. It may demoralise Aaron or Pandey if Yadav is played ahead of them, but then, did not Dhoni pull out RP Singh from a holiday in the US in 2011 and play him at The Oval ahead of Munaf Patel on the team’s last tour of Old Blighty?
It is important to take some serious decisions, even if it means “resting and not dropping”, as Sourav Ganguly said on air, of the non-performing Shikhar Dhawan and have the “fresh ideas” of the experienced Gautam Gambhir at the top of the batting line-up.
(G Krishnan qualified as an umpire from Tamil Nadu Cricket Association in 1997 before making sports journalism as a career. His other interests include wildlife and reading. Krishnan is Principal Correspondent of DNA, where the article first appeared)
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