I should do that more often. I spent some time through ESPN's videos. Rahul Dravid's latest video provided an interesting insight to me about some of the spin strategies that teams apply in the sub-continent. This wasn't new information or a brand new tactic, just that I had lost sight of a vital piece of the puzzle.
Dravid mentioned Monty Panesar's spell on Day One at the Eden Gardens when he conceded only 70 odd runs in 35 overs. This put the lid on one side and mounted pressure on the batting team to score more runs. Obviously, Indian batsmen didn't step up and lost. Ravindra Jadeja is expected to play a similar role in the current set up where his role is to bottle one end up. Keeping this in mind, a three-for or a two-for is fair game, provided he concedes less than two and a half runs per over.
A tight bowler at one end and an attacking one at the other is the most basic template of test match bowling. Play on the batsmen's minds, don't give them balls in the areas where they are strong and let them make decisions to attack or not. More often than not, batsmen who are successful playing long innings are probably likely to play the waiting game rather than make anything happen. And then there are the others who probably instinctively know when it's time to take over and disrupt bowling team strategies. Sachin Tendulkar did this in 1998 against Australia. Kevin Pietersen did that in Mumbai in the last series, Viv Richards would routinely do it and most recently Mahendra Singh Dhoni against Australia when nothing you throw at him seemed to matter. He literally willed the bowlers to bowl into his "areas".
Australia don't have such a batsman right now. I think Michael Hussey could have been it, but he's retired. Shane Watson could don that role, but he doesn't want to bat that far down the order. Michael Clarke remains too classical and too effective with his current methods to do anything different. Moises Henriques demonstrated great patience and effectiveness in dealing with the situation, but he didn't seem to have the audacity and confidence required to be disruptive.
So, maybe, this is what Dhoni meant when he was talking about a "settled combination". Maybe he's not looking for wickets and runs from Jadeja. Maybe he's simply looking for tight, disciplined bowling spells that Ravi Shastri would often reel off. Maybe he's looking for Jadeja to simply occupy the crease and let Dhoni and Virat Kohli do the damage required, except perhaps in the rarest of cases. India no longer have the batsmen of Dravid and VVS Laxman's pedigree for whom conditions didn't matter. Clearly, Dhoni seems to be ok carrying Tendulkar at this time, given his stature. Tendulkar couldn't convert his great start into a big one; and for a No 4 to not score centuries at least once every four to five tests is tough on the rest of the folks. It's prime batting order real estate when it comes to opportunities to score big. But I suppose this is a not so good Australian bowling attack and it's ok.
However, India does need to look at things in a different perspective when it comes to selecting a team for South Africa. Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav should be cut loose and a good bowler to control runs such as Praveen Kumar or even Ishant Sharma (given his inability to take wickets despite being oh-so-close). Batting-wise this supports the need for Gautam Gambhir to come back and bat within himself. It would be unfair to blood a new opener in South Africa of all places.
(Vidooshak is a blogger @ Opinions on Cricket . He was drawn into cricket by Golandaaz as a schoolboy. His bluster overshadows his cricketing ability. He played as a wicket-keeper in a college team but was promptly dropped. The college selection committee had slightly higher standards than Pakistani selectors. He did reasonably well in tennis ball cricket until he was benched for a final game by the team that he captained. To say some of it was due to his opinions would be an understatement of sorts. Regardless, Vidooshak finds time to opinionate relentlessly and lives a vicarious life by watching cricket teams make obvious mistakes. Good news for Vidooshak is that someone always loses a cricket game, someone always gets belted and someone always flops. Vidooshak always looks for an alternative explanation and rarely agrees with mainstream consensus. Needless to say he has no friends, only ‘tolerators’! While not throwing his weight around, Vidooshak does not run marathons or draw pictures, but reads voraciously on all topics, volunteers at local failing schools, is an avid but average golfer and runs an Indian association in mid-west America)
First Published: March 4, 2013, 9:35 am