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Friday, May 27, 2022

Against South Africa, India spin an old yarn

India need to have all the components of the game in working order including fast bowlers and five batsmen.

Written by Jaideep Ghosh |
November 26, 2015 10:46:04 am
Ind vs SA, India vs South Africa, India vs South Africa 3rd Test, Ind vs SA 3rd Test, India cricket, South Africa cricket, virat kohli, kohli, ab de villiers, cricket news, cricket As many as 12 wickets fell on Day 1 of the third Test between India and South Africa in Nagpur. (Source: AP)

A little ironic to see that when the world is beginning to tread new ground in Test cricket, India is taking the old and beaten path, again.

Friday will see Australia and New Zealand play the first-ever day-night Test at Adelaide. The new timings, the pink ball, the doing away with bad light, even the chance that the players may find it difficult to play with the pink ball, are all steps towards a new horizon.

While In Jamtha, just outside Nagpur, India are back to the ‘home’ formula – dust bowls, three spinners, six batsmen and three-day matches.

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When India decided that they would bring in Rohit Sharma and leave Varun Aaron out of the mix for the third Test, there were some shrugs of fatalistic nature – so we’re back.

India’s tryst and romance with fast bowling has gone out of the window. We are back to the hoary days initially orchestrated by Mohammed Azharuddin and then honed by Sourav Ganguly – tweaking home advantage into an unassailable campaign of wins at home.

It essentially is a simple formula – you need three decent spinners and preferably as fourth, part-time will do. Then you need to load the entire batting, right till No. 7. Then all the captain had to do was win the toss and make the most of the docile pitch which held up just enough for the hosts to get about 275 runs, which turned out to be almost enough for an innings win at times.

This is how Azhar’s side was unbeatable in the 80s and early 90s. Irrespective of who came, India would win.

This is what we are seeing again – Virat Kohli too has found the elusive mantra of home advantage.

That it ends up being a boring and uninspiring no-contest on a track that gives just too much advantage to the spinners isn’t ever considered to be a dampener.

The home team wins. The sponsors are happy, so are the broadcasters. All is well.

So as Day One ended in Jamtha, the script was pretty much the same as Mohali. India managed to get some runs. Then South Africa managed to lose some wickets.

The fact that the Indian batting struggled against what is a mediocre spin attack at best was forgotten in Mohali and it will be in Nagpur as well, so long as the home side wins.

This is exactly the same as decades before. Win and all is forgotten. But then a line-up that includes Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma can’t score 250 runs, surely something is haywire.

And what is Sharma doing in a Test XI? Hasn’t there been enough evidence that he just doesn’t have it in him to play Tests? What’s the point of a sixth batsman if all he does is potter around and then give the advantage back to the rivals? Then, what exactly does this system do to help overseas? Are the cricketing mandarins planning to become home tigers again?

India go to Australia soon. There won’t be any square turners there. There you will need your Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Aaron. There, you cannot play three spinners.

There you definitely cannot play Dhawan or Sharma, if this is all they can offer.

South Africa are playing it badly and obviously they have been dented mentally about playing on these turners, right from Day One and losing by Day Four afternoon.

On top of that, they have missed crucial players – Dale Steyn is out, so is Vernon Philander (though what they would have done on this strip is a good question). They haven’t got their combination working.

Hashim Amla is struggling, Faf du Plessis is not even a threat while all the rest are scratchy. It takes more than just one AB de Villiers to make a team.

And what are they doing with the batting line-up? The first sign on unrest in the mind is an uncertain batting line-up.

Sending Philander to open in the second innings at Mohali was a disaster. Sending Imran Tahir to fend off Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja in Jamtha was a stroke of desperation as well.

But all that is their problem. Indian supporters I am sure aren’t so enamoured with this three-day success formula, especially when it all for sure will fall apart on any trip abroad.

You think Australia will give you the hospitable square turners? Or South Africa won’t be ready to bite? So, unless the whole plan is to going back to being home tigers instead of a viable power, home and away, go right ahead.

All this talk about ‘home advantage’ can’t be at the cost of all-round development of the game. In any case the batting isn’t outdoing itself and it will struggle even more away.

So stop fooling yourselves and living in this paradise of denial. Try to have all the components of your game in working order. That includes the fast bowlers. And five batsmen.

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