By Nishad Pai Vaidya
When Jade Dernbach’s furniture was disturbed by Ravichandran Ashwin, celebrations erupted in the Indian camp as they registered their first win over England in the year 2011. A tie in the World Cup encounter and a disastrous tour of the British Isles meant that India were still looking for that elusive win over England going into the game. The massive win at Hyderabad would come as a huge sigh of relief for Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his men as they finally have something to cheer about.
The Hyderabad wicket wasn’t the best for batting. There was the odd one that kept low and the other that just took off. The batsmen had to watch the ball very carefully and not try anything premeditated. On few occasions the ball would stop on the surface, which meant that batsmen had to check their strokes. Amidst all that, Suresh Raina and Dhoni were absolutely brilliant. They adjusted to the conditions and got used to the pace of the wicket. Once they had their eye in they were ready to unleash an array of strokes. Any concerns arising out of their struggle on the slow Chennai surface during the Champions League T20 (CLT20) were put to rest without a problem.
Alastair Cook led England from the front as he played a very positive knock. He was at ease playing the fast bowlers and looked good against the spinners. However, after he played down the throat of midwicket, everything went awry for England. The Indian spinners, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja took centrestage as they used the conditions well and spun a web around the clueless English batsmen. Their performance is an encouraging sign for India and one can say that the two spinners would be their biggest strength in matches to come.
The inclusion of Jadeja added much-needed balance to the Indian unit. Coming in at No 7, he showed his worth with the bat by playing aggressive strokes and building a crucial partnership with Dhoni. Batting at No 7 isn’t the easiest task as that position is the fulcrum between the recognised batsmen and the tail. On many occasions, batsman at No 7 has to hold fort but keep scoring at a good rate.
Jadeja’s performance at The Oval during the England tour and the latest outing show that he is ready to take on that crucial spot. At The Oval, he came in with India in a huge hole and played a brilliant knock to take the total to some respectability. The situation he walked in at Hyderabad was different as he came in during the latter stage of the innings when India needed to score quickly. In the two contrasting situations, what has been impressive about Jadeja is his intent. He has rotated the strike well and has played the big shot whenever the opportunity presented itself.
The Saurashtra all-rounder’s good outing didn’t finish with the bat as he bowled a crucial spell to derail England’s hopes of securing a victory. The wickets of Cook and Jonathan Trott were the biggest breakthroughs he delivered. Cook was going great guns and had to be stopped before he started upping the ante. On the other hand, Trott has been one of the most difficult batsmen to dismiss over the last year. By going through his attempted sweep, Jadeja removed England’s backbone and they never looked in the game after that blow.
The other positive for India was the way Ashwin and Jadeja combined to trouble the England batsmen. It looked like they had a plan and were hunting as a pair. Jadeja’s left-arm orthodox and Ashwin’s off-spin formed a good combination. Their different angles of approach make it difficult for the batsmen to adjust.
Ashwin’s variations were impressive. He mixed up very well the conventional off-spinners with the faster ones and the carom ball. The variable bounce in the wicket made him that much more dangerous. Some of his conventional off-spinners turned big, which left a significant impact on the batsmen’s minds.
With Jadeja adding balance to the side due to his all-round ability and Ashwin showing consistency, it would be difficult for Rahul Sharma to get a game. As long as the two are doing well, Dhoni may not feel the need to replace them and give the youngster a go. However, if he chooses to play two pacers instead of three, Sharma may get a look-in.
On the sidelines, a “surprised” Harbhajan Singh continues his comeback trail. Good spells in the finals of both the CLT20 and Challenger Trophy indicate his hunger to get back into national colors. If he continues his good run into the domestic games, India will have a good pool of slow bowlers when he joins Jadeja, Ashwin and Sharma.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 21-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.")