Sanjay Manjrekar believes fitness levels played a crucial role in India’s 227-run loss to England in the first Test. The former cricketer expounded how India’s spinners could have performed better in Chennai had they been stronger physically.
Although Ravichandran Ashwin finished as the leading wicket-taker in the first Test, taking nine wickets, the other two Indian spinners struggled against the visitors. Shahbaz Nadeem couldn’t exploit the favourable conditions, while Washington Sundar went wicketless after being targetted by the English batsmen.
In his column for the Hindustan Times, Sanjay Manjrekar explained how the spinners' lack of physical strength contributed to India's defeat.
“For the betterment of Indian cricket, we must accept one hard fact. One important reason why India lost the first Test was because of the fitness of their spinners. When I say fitness, I mean, specifically, physical strength,” Manjrekar said.
Explaining his point, Sanjay Manjrekar said how the Chennai wicket was a flat turner. He also said spinners like Ashwin and Nadeem weren't naturally suited to exploit the pitch.
“When the turn is slow, you need spinners who bowl quickly in the air and get the ball to turn quickly off the pitch. Or someone who can be slow in the air but get the ball to fizz off the pitch. But the latter is a skill only the rare greats possess," he added.
Sanjay Manjrekar advises Indian spinners to get stronger
Sanjay Manjrekar wrote that India should learn from their loss in the first Test in Chennai, and the Indian spinners should improve their physical strength.
The cricketer-turned-commentator noted how it would help the team when the pitch is a slow turner.
“They must work on getting strength in the fingers and the entire body, so it can be used to get that ultimate effect of being slow in the air and quick off the pitch. If you are not fit and strong, you automatically tend to just use your arms and fingers and not the full body, and this limits your potency on slow turners.”
While India’s spinners barring Ashwin struggled in the second innings, Jack Leach came into his own on days four and five. The left-arm spinner took four wickets after bouncing back from the mauling he received at the hands of Rishabh Pant earlier.
Referring to Leach’s bowling speeds, Sanjay Manjrekar noted how Indian spinners couldn’t match his pace due to their lack of strength.
“With their current fitness levels, Ashwin, Nadeem and Yadav would struggle to achieve what Leach did even if they tried because their bodies would not be able to withstand the extra effort.”
Sanjay Manjrekar advised India’s spinners to hit the gym, explaining how greater fitness levels will help them overcome the challenges on slow turners.
“If I were to coach our spinners, I would just get them to spend hours in the gym. Skills they have in plenty. All they need are strong bodies to get that ball to fizz off a length on a slow turner so that Joe Root & co would not be able to play comfortably to a ball pitched on full-length even on a slow pitch.”