Spotlight on the Indian bowlers ahead of the Test series
As the Indian team gears up for the 3-match Test series against Sri Lanka in the island nation's own den, the usual questions are doing the round back home. How will the batsmen cope with the Lankan spinners? Who are the batsmen who should figure in the playing XI ?
The country as usual is obsessed with its batsmen so much so that they tend to forget India's biggest problem has been the inability to pick up 20 wickets that would ultimately win them the game. However small a red cherry seems to be in front of a willow, it does call the shots in Test Cricket.
Old habits die hard, they say and you will not get a better example than the pace duo of Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron to illustrate this saying. The duo do come across as bowlers who can clock 150 kph consistently and hurry up the batsmen. So, as the cricketing world terms them, they are supposed to be 'Wicket takers' , 'Impact bowlers' since they have the pace.
Aaron and Yadav need to improve
Let's take a moment to think at what cost do these two bowlers deliver a wicket taking ball or a 'peach' ? Forget bowling in the channel, the duo after 3 years of international cricket are incapable of bowling to one side of the wicket consistently.
They give away too many freebies before they produce a gem of a delivery. By the time the wicket taking ball arrives, the captain's confidence would have gone for a toss and you would find a genuine edge running through the vacant slip cordon. The pace at which they leak runs makes it doubly difficult for the spinners to be attacking as well.
So, my advice to Virat Kohli would be aggression is not bowling fast and furious, but bowling intelligently as well. This would mean sacking these two players and putting your trust back in Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ishant Sharma, who would provide the captain much better control.
Ishant is a much better bowler in Tests and bowls a teasing line consistently. In conditions that are not supportive, he is steady and maintains a decent pace. If there is some help in the wicket, he becomes a handful. Bhuvneshwar is known for his accuracy and his ability to hit the same spot ball after ball. With some swing, he will be a threat to the opposition's top order. Both of them can be a perfect foil to the spinners and play second fiddle to the spinners perfectly.
Should India play with 3 spinners?
Shifting our focus to the spinners, who are expected to get the most help out of the wickets at Sri Lanka, Ashwin would be the leader of this pack. The crafty Chennai-born offspinner has come up leap and bounds over the past few months.
He seems to be in his 'zone' as a spinner and more importantly has realised that his stock delivery can get him wickets. Once criticised for trying too many variations too soon, Ashwin has got his thinking clear and is now more focused on the off spinner. This is very good news for Virat Kohli and co.!
While Harbhajan and Ashwin are almost certain to make the cut, the question of playing the third spinner is yet to be answered. Amit Mishra, is a wily leg-spinner and knows what he is doing. A leg spinner of his calibre is an asset to any team.
I would even pick him ahead of Harbhajan if there are only 2 slots available for spinners. Having said that, it is only fair that you pick your five best bowlers, even if it means playing 3 spinners. Saying Amit Mishra and Harbhajan Singh are way better than Umesh and Aaron is only an understatement.
Ideally, this is the bowling combination India should go in with for the 1st Test –
Ravichandran Ashwin, Harbhajan Singh, Amit Mishra, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar.