Moeen Ali ran through the Indian middle order once again at Manchester © Getty Images
By G Krishnan
Aug 11, 2014
India‘s batsmen are known to be champion players of spin bowling. However, MS Dhoni‘s men have come a cropper against ‘part-time’ off-spinner Moeen Ali, who has picked up 19 wickets in four matches.
Ten of his scalps came in the second innings of the third and fourth Tests in Southampton and Manchester, respectively.Ali, who came into this series with only three wickets from two Tests, is the second-highest wicket-taker in the series.
Only James Anderson (21) has had better returns. Ali has done a notch better than India’s best bowler in the rubber, Bhuvneshwar Kumar (18). Ali would not mind the ‘part-time’ tag given to him as long as he takes wickets and bowls England to victory after victory. Perhaps, the Indian team management gave less importance to Ali’s off-breaks. No wonder, then, that they were caught napping against the bowler who has operated in the right areas with his classical off-spinners.
Ali has forced the top-order batsmen to commit mistakes by inducing the edge, effecting bat-pad dismissals and making them play false strokes. Ali, though, has 140 first-class wickets besides the 22 Test scalps in his career. In other words, he ought to have been given his share of respect. Ali has, in a way, negated the absence of Graeme Swann. Who knows, he may be England’s frontline spinner in the years to come.
The 27-year-old has taken more wickets in this series than the 13 Swann claimed in the four-Test series against India in 2011. Lest we forget, that Indian team included the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. Having said that, the cream of India’s batting, except for skipper MS Dhoni and Gautam Gambhir, is playing a Test series in England for the first time.
Still, no excuses for the capitulation in Manchester, the same venue where a 17-year-old Tendulkar fought hard to save India from defeat with his maiden Test century in 1990. Also, there can’t be an excuse for frittering away the chance of a rare series win after going 1-0 up in the second Test at Lord’s. Legendary off-spinner Erapalli Prasanna came down hard at the Indian batsmen. In fact, he opined that Ali has busted the myth that Indian batsmen are good players of spin bowling.
“Everyone says India is weak against swing/seam bowling. We have seen England batsman also struggle against swing bowling. In the same way, our batsmen are susceptible to good spin bowling. And, if we are at the receiving end, we only succumb to pressure,” Prasanna told dna on Sunday evening.
The 74-year-old Prasanna, who picked up 189 wickets in 49 Tests between 1962 and 1978, said that the reason Ali troubled the Indian batsmen repeatedly was because of the “excellent line” he maintained.
For someone whose mantra was “line is optional, length is mandatory”, Prasanna said Ali could be an attacking bowler if he were to improve his length as well. “Ali has been successful because his line has been so excellent. He also varied his length. If he were to improve his length, he will become more dangerous.”
The Bangalore-based Prasanna rued the fact that R Ashwin, India’s premier off-spinner, had to warm the bench for the first three Tests before getting a chance in the fourth. “The team management should have played Ashwin from the beginning. In the first three matches, the wickets were responsive to spin.
Unfortunately in the match Ashwin got to play (at Old Trafford), he did not have a big score to bowl at. Ashwin would have been as dangerous as Ali in this series.”
Dhoni chose left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja ahead of Ashwin. Prasanna called Jadeja “an unintelligent” bowler. “Jadeja is a very good spinner, but not an intelligent spinner. If he bowls a reasonable length with a good line, he can be a strike bowler. If he had the natural ability of a spinner like Bishan Singh Bedi, Dilip Doshi or Padmakar Shivalkar (all yesteryear left-arm spinners), he would have been a better bowler.”
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(This was first published by DNA)