New Delhi: Graeme Swann, one of the premier off-spinners in the game, retired midway through the Ashes series on Sunday, admitting that he could not make the desired impact during the second half of a Test match when tweakers are expected to come into their own.
Ironically, later in the day we saw another of his tribe being totally ineffective on the final day of a Test when his side expected crucial breakthroughs from him.
To say that Ravichandran Ashwin had a disappointing Test match in Johannesburg would be an understatement. The fastest bowler to 100 wickets in the modern era was expected to capitalise on the variable bounce on a fifth day Wanderers track, and help Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s team to a cherished overseas victory.
It must be pointed out that the Johannesburg pitch was a far cry from the made-toorder tracks that Ashwin has made his reputation on. His impressive record in Test cricket is exclusively based on the bagful of wickets he gets at home.
Ashwin toured Australia in 2011-12 and found the going tough. He got nine wickets in three matches, but was never the force the team needed him to be. He was neither a frequent wicket-taker nor did he keep a check on the scoring.
It was expected that in the two years since, the Tamil Nadu spinner, who has the doosra and carrom ball in his arsenal, will have learnt enough to make his presence felt outside the Indian sub-continent. Alas, it was not so.
Even on pitches that do not offer much help to spinners, a tweaker is included in the eleven to change the pace and prevent the fast men from being overworked.
That is the job Swann did for England and lately Nathan Lyon does for the Aussies.
But if Ashwin fails to make any impact, maybe the express pace of Umesh Yadav should be considered for the second Test.
The Vidarbha speedster was the most impressive Indian bowler on the disastrous trip Down Under two years ago, taking 14 wickets in four Tests. One expects some similarities between pitches in Australia and South Africa, which makes Umesh a viable option for the decider.
It has been more than a year since the 26-year-old last played a Test, so he will be raring to go.
His speed has not gone down since he recovered from a back injury.
With ability to consistently bowl above 140 km per hour, move the ball both ways, and deliver a sharp bouncer, he could be a valuable member of the bowling attack which also features the skills and guile of Zaheer Khan, the height and hostility of Ishant Sharma, and the relentless accuracy of Mohammed Shami.
Umesh may concede a few runs, but it will be compensated if he hurries a few batsmen and gets crucial wickets.