India’s spin conundrum

New Delhi: New Delhi: The events of the last four days in Mumbai have made it clear that these aren’t the good old days of Anil Kumble and a young Harbhajan Singh in Indian cricket.

Rarely have foreign spinners come to India and outshone their local counterparts as comprehensively as Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann did on a Wankhede Stadium pitch tailor-made to Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s specifications.

The conundrum now facing the Sandeep Patil-headed selection committee when it meets on Tuesday is whether to persist with the same combination for the next two Tests in Kolkata and Nagpur, or whether it is time to shake the incumbents out of their complacency.

Harbhajan’s recall might be only one innings old, but there was enough evidence to suggest that it may not be practical to allow him to play his 100th Test in Kolkata. For long now, the Jalandhar lad has looked a spent force. “Bhajji is no longer the threat he used to be. The loop is gone. It has now come to a stage where he doesn’t get wickets even on wickets that assist him,” former India spinner Maninder Singh told Mail Today.

Fellow off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has been steady, but given his status as India’s main attacking weapon, the returns have been woefully short of expectations. He has been comfortably outshone by the uncomplicated Pragyan Ojha, who is the only spinner to enhance his reputation in the two Tests so far. Ashwin needs to realise that sometimes, it is better just to bowl the stock off-break and let the pitch do the rest, as Panesar, Swann and Ojha have shown.

Trouble is, even if the selectors do decide to abandon the two off-spinners theory, who do they bring in? The spin cupboard in the country is so bare that one can count the number of serious contenders on one finger, and Maninder concurs.

“I don’t really see a third spinner as India didn’t play any during the warm-up games. If I still had to pick one on past performances, it has to be Amit Mishra,” he said.

Mishra is 30 years old, has played 13 Test matches for 43 wickets at an awful average of 43.30. Over his last five first-class matches, which included the Haryana-England XI game in Ahmedabad in which he deliberately underbowled himself, Mishra has taken just 14 wickets.

But he has experience and guile, and the addition of a leggie to a left-armer and an offie can only lend more variety.

The reserve bench looks bare as India try to come back in the final two Teststo the attack.

The other leg-spinning options in the country are Uttar Pradesh’s Piyush Chawla – who is fresh from an injury and went for 233 in his first match back, on a horrendously flat pitch in Pune – and Rahul Sharma, who has hardly made a mark in Punjab’s seam-engineered successes this Ranji season.

If one were to go out on a limb and pick a complete rookie, then Maharashtra’s Akshay Darekar seems to be at the top of the pecking order. He has been on both the recent ‘A’ tours to West Indies and New Zealand, and boasts an impressive first-class record of 66 wickets in 19 matches at 27.37.

But he is a left-arm spinner, and the think tank might not want to overdo things in that department with Ojha already doing well.

That’s also the reason Shahbaz Nadeem, the Jharkhand captain and current leader in the Ranji wickets tally, could also stay put, although the fact that he’s playing in the weakest of the three groups may also count against the value of his wickets.

In such a scenario, and with the Eden Gardens pitch helping seamers so far this season, it would probably be worth a shot to bring back a second pacer — Ishant Sharma — alongside Zaheer Khan, and play conventional cricket on a conventional track. After all, it was convention that won India the Ahmedabad Test!


Rarely have foreign spinners come to India and outshone their local counterparts as comprehensively as Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann did on a Wankhede Stadium pitch tailor-made to Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s specifications.

The conundrum now facing the Sandeep Patil-headed selection committee when it meets on Tuesday is whether to persist with the same combination for the next two Tests in Kolkata and Nagpur, or whether it is time to shake the incumbents out of their complacency.

Harbhajan’s recall might be only one innings old, but there was enough evidence to suggest that it may not be practical to allow him to play his 100th Test in Kolkata. For long now, the Jalandhar lad has looked a spent force. “Bhajji is no longer the threat he used to be. The loop is gone. It has now come to a stage where he doesn’t get wickets even on wickets that assist him,” former India spinner Maninder Singh told Mail Today.

Fellow off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has been steady, but given his status as India’s main attacking weapon, the returns have been woefully short of expectations. He has been comfortably outshone by the uncomplicated Pragyan Ojha, who is the only spinner to enhance his reputation in the two Tests so far. Ashwin needs to realise that sometimes, it is better just to bowl the stock off-break and let the pitch do the rest, as Panesar, Swann and Ojha have shown.

Trouble is, even if the selectors do decide to abandon the two off-spinners theory, who do they bring in? The spin cupboard in the country is so bare that one can count the number of serious contenders on one finger, and Maninder concurs.

“I don’t really see a third spinner as India didn’t play any during the warm-up games. If I still had to pick one on past performances, it has to be Amit Mishra,” he said.

Mishra is 30 years old, has played 13 Test matches for 43 wickets at an awful average of 43.30. Over his last five first-class matches, which included the Haryana-England XI game in Ahmedabad in which he deliberately underbowled himself, Mishra has taken just 14 wickets.

But he has experience and guile, and the addition of a leggie to a left-armer and an offie can only lend more variety.

Also read:
Time for selectors to take tough calls
Ganguly: Pick Dinda ahead of Bhajji
Indian team selection on Tuesday
Dhoni: Disappointed with my spinners
Magnificent England level series


The reserve bench looks bare as India try to come back in the final two Teststo the attack.

The other leg-spinning options in the country are Uttar Pradesh’s Piyush Chawla – who is fresh from an injury and went for 233 in his first match back, on a horrendously flat pitch in Pune – and Rahul Sharma, who has hardly made a mark in Punjab’s seam-engineered successes this Ranji season.

If one were to go out on a limb and pick a complete rookie, then Maharashtra’s Akshay Darekar seems to be at the top of the pecking order. He has been on both the recent ‘A’ tours to West Indies and New Zealand, and boasts an impressive first-class record of 66 wickets in 19 matches at 27.37.

But he is a left-arm spinner, and the think tank might not want to overdo things in that department with Ojha already doing well.

That’s also the reason Shahbaz Nadeem, the Jharkhand captain and current leader in the Ranji wickets tally, could also stay put, although the fact that he’s playing in the weakest of the three groups may also count against the value of his wickets.

In such a scenario, and with the Eden Gardens pitch helping seamers so far this season, it would probably be worth a shot to bring back a second pacer — Ishant Sharma — alongside Zaheer Khan, and play conventional cricket on a conventional track. After all, it was convention that won India the Ahmedabad Test!

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