Chennai, Feb. 26 -- With India on the verge of wrapping up the first Test, it is the Aussies who are groaning in despair, Ravichandran Ashwin having tied their batsmen in knots and their pace-oriented bowling coming unstuck. But one can feel a gentle rumble in the India corner too over their spin combination.
India had taken a big decision to leave out Pragyan Ojha despite the left-arm spinner having emerged the hosts' leading wicket-taker against a tougher England in the 1-2 series defeat.
The argument was that with four of the Aussie top six being left-handed batsmen, an extra off-spinner would do greater damage. But Harbhajan Singh, in his 100th Test, managed only three wickets and has not been the kind of threat he was in the past on such turning tracks. Ravindra Jadeja's left-arm spin and batting credentials also initially won the argument over Ojha, but he failed with the bat and did not make a huge impact with the ball.
In Chennai, Ojha was left to wonder what could have been on a rank turner though he would hope to playing in the next Test at his home turf, Hyderabad.
India not fielding three mainline spinners is understandable. In the second Test against England in Mumbai, MS Dhoni under-bowled Harbhajan Singh while Panesar and Swann did the job for the visitors.
Ex-India spinner Maninder Singh favoured playing Ojha in the second Test starting on March 2. "It will be a tough call but I'd be inclined to play Ojha in place of Harbhajan or Jadeja."
"If we play four spinners, they will be under-bowled, so it's better to stick with three. We can also play a batsman instead of a seamer. Ajinkya Rahane will strengthen the batting."
Jadeja admitted he was shaky with the bat. "There were those 15-20 minutes, if I'd got through that, I'd have got runs more easily. I was a bit nervous because I was not getting runs with the shots I was playing. So, I left the ball and it hit the stumps."
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.