Harsha Bhogle

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Inexperienced bowlers must shine for India

India take one of their most inexperienced bowling attacks into a crucial Test match and yet it is something they cannot afford to think about. Too often, when you miss out on a star, you focus on what you don't have and there will be moments when England's batsmen get set that that thought will return. But it doesn't count for much and India must focus on what they do have.


For a start, they must hope they have four bowlers at any one point on the ground during the match. It has been a much-ignored fact amidst all the criticism that at almost all times during this series MS Dhoni has been a bowler short. Everytime he has looked for a fresh pair of legs he has found nobody. At Edgbaston India will at least take the field with four bowlers.


With Zaheer Khan out of the series a lot will depend on the other seamers. RP Singh has been included in the squad, but he hasn't played for India in a good long while. Zaheer, critically, also had experience. With 79 Tests to his name, he equals the sum total of RP (13), Ishant Sharma (36), Praveen Kumar (5) and Sreesanth (25)!


While Ishant is the most experienced, Praveen has been India's star so far. He was the leading Indian on the Castrol Index in the second Test - and the second overall, behind Stuart Broad - so important were the seven England wickets he claimed. He has taken four more wickets than Ishant in the series so far and I look forward to seeing him take more of a leadership role in the bowling attack.


The choice of spinner, after Harbhajan Singh's pull-out, will be interesting given that there are five left-handers in the opposition line up. Both Pragyan Ojha and Amit Mishra, who should strictly speaking be preferred since he was the original selection, turn the ball into the left-hander and there is nobody in this side who can take it away since Virender Sehwag cannot yet bowl and Suresh Raina, well...hasn't really been turning the ball!


This is an excellent opportunity for Mishra even if he hasn't looked particularly penetrative in the couple of games he has played so far. England are not the world's greatest players of leg-spin bowling, but this is a very good batting line-up. Still, a fit and hungry leg-spinner, even if inexperienced, is better than no spinner at all.


Predictably, the focus will be on Sehwag, but one must tread with caution here. It is entirely possible he will get India off to a great start but he has very little cricket behind him. It is one thing to bat in the nets and quite another to be up against the best new ball attack in these conditions. That is why I believe the more crucial opener will be Gautam Gambhir.


This is India's best batting line-up and they have now been in the country long enough even if they have been playing catch-up all along. They must put enough runs on the board for the bowlers and that is why, whatever the conditions, I believe India will bat first this time, if they have the option.

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