July 26, 2010

India in Sri Lanka 2010

India should strengthen bowling on batting tracks

Aakash Chopra
Yuvraj Singh congratulates Munaf Patel for Ross Taylor's wicket, New Zealand v India, 1st Test, Hamilton, 4th day, March 21, 2009
India should have gone in with the extra bowler in Galle  © Associated Press
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Stats do the talking: Sri Lanka post a colossal 520 for 8 after being reduced to 393 for 7. India, on the other hand, lose the last five wickets for a paltry 26 runs in the first innings. Once again, five middle-order wickets pack up in 36 runs in the second innings -appalling figures that sum up the Indian tragedy in Galle.

Was it the Indian batting that failed twice in Galle or the bowling that allowed the Sri Lankans to post a mammoth total or, perhaps both? What exactly was the reason behind India's dismal show in the first Test? While armchair criticism is rampant at this time, a bit of introspection, not misplaced criticism, would do us a world of good.

In my view, we started the first Test match on the wrong foot. The team's endeavour, especially the No.1 team in the world, should be to win the match regardless of the toss and the conditions. Since you need 20 wickets to win a Test match, it's imperative to tighten up the bowling unit before the start. While picking the playing XI, one must take into account the track (which would always be batsman friendly in the sub-continent) and the possibility of losing the toss (which means bowling first).

Did we have a bowling department convincing enough to dismiss the strong Sri Lankan batting twice? If the honest answer to the question is a No, it rests the issue. We hoped that we would win the toss, bat first and post a huge total, make Sri Lanka bat twice and 'perhaps' win the Test match. But as we now know, Test matches are not won on naive presumptions.

Let's have a look at how the first Test panned out. The bowling looked quite listless to start with which was perhaps along the expected lines. You don't expect an attack comprising a debutant, a rookie and a bowler making a comeback of sorts to run riot. Even the senior-most bowler was under the weather and perhaps wasn't a 100% fit.

Just to add to India's woes the track was flat and MS Dhoni called incorrectly. While the fast bowlers redeemed themselves somewhat and brought India back into the game, their slower counterparts failed to step up. Sri Lanka's lower order made merry and the No.8 and 9 batsmen notched up their highest first class scores. Our bowling had run out of steam by the time the tail arrived.

Yes, the famed batting line-up failed twice in Galle, but had the Sri Lankan tail not wagged as much, we wouldn't have fallen short of the follow-on mark. No, I'm not trying to defend the batting breakdown, but only saying that even if India batted better, we could have only salvaged a draw. For batting can either set up or save a Test match but rarely win it for the team.

While saving a Test match is an art, you must always plan to win. Despite the twin failure, I'd say that our strength lies in batting and hence can provide cushion to the bowling department. India must play bowlers who can take 20 wickets and if four bowlers don't look resounding enough, there's no harm in playing five. In any case, Dhoni at No.6 is as good a batsman as you could ever get at that position. By sacrificing one batsman you'd put some real pressure on the batting line-up and undoubtedly they'd respond positively.

It's only wise to strengthen your bowling on good batting surfaces, just like you bolster the batting on surfaces which assist the bowlers.

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here

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Posted by Anonymous on (August 7, 2010, 13:27 GMT)

Praveen kumar is the best fast bowler India currently has and Harbhajan singh should only be given chance to play in test match when India plays at Home.

Posted by GD on (August 5, 2010, 8:04 GMT)

The talk of producing a certain type of pitch to favour x, y or z is not going to help. Better there be a range of pitches in any country so that all players can benefit at different times. I liked the idea of Aus v Pak in England. Whether its workable longer term is debatable but it produced results that probably wouldn't have been the same in Aus or indeed Pakistan.

Posted by dharshi on (August 2, 2010, 7:26 GMT)

true....how can they depend on thier batting line up??? evn if ts great we saw wat hapnd in the first test match......indians doesn;t deserve to be the 1st in the world....sl should become first...m seriuos

Posted by Jeon on (August 2, 2010, 6:55 GMT)

If Indian cricket Mgmt is really focussed on coaching fast bowlers than we have to consider Pakistan bowling coaches and import some gully bowlers from Pakistan and train them here(As S.African players are doing it for England). Sack the present selectors and groom better bowlers like Mithun,Ishant, I.pathan, Munaf,Powar,Mishra for betterment of Indian cricket.

Posted by Nakul Barfa on (July 31, 2010, 9:24 GMT)

People should only concern about how good he plays and how well he maintains his performance in the game!! How much he scores and how he loves Cricket!!! People should also see that the amount of simplicity and respect he shows in his nature and behaviour!!!! People who talk about Sachin's age are already very old from their mind because a true and young Indian would proud of Sachin for playing so amazingly in all the formates of the game. Instead of talking of about Sachin's age people should talk about his achievements, glory, class, technique and the consistent performance! The most important thing about Sachin is he is always on the ground! He never talk, never said anything to any player in the world, its his bat who give the talking.

Lets talk something about Cricket and Sachin - First of all what do you need to be a good batsman and player???

He is the best judger of the run which is very very imp and he also run very fast even better than other young players around the worl

Posted by tombaan on (July 29, 2010, 15:55 GMT)

For reasons unknown Murli and Pawar the best spinners have never gotten their day under sun. The next series is in INdia and Singh will claim some wickets and then say media is targeting me. Then off we go to africa with him again and a OJha or Mishra. Then again in India thus it goes....

Posted by V.Sivaram on (July 29, 2010, 11:40 GMT)

Some ex cricketers r advocating the 5 man bowling attack but where r the quality bowlers in this team-What is the use of adding an extra bowler who is not good enough to take wickets ?

Posted by Dani Boi on (July 29, 2010, 2:36 GMT)

India will never hold on to that # 1 spot in test rankings, simply because they do not have a good fast bowling attack. The focus has to be on swing bowling, the speed will come! The problem is that India focuses too much on batting, in order to get good fast bowlers you need to change the lifeless wickets in India. What is the point of making spinning wickets if you can't produce quality match winning spinners (sorry Harbajan is overrated). Make them suit fast bowling, that way, you will produce fast bowlers and also batsman who can attack on the back foot and play the short ball(like the Australians). India for sure has talented fast bowlers which have not been found or simply will not be allowed to play due to their cast and family position. Kamran Khan is fast and can swing the ball, why not draft him into the team???

Posted by anonymous on (July 28, 2010, 23:47 GMT)

Why do we have Harbajan in the side. He performs once in 25 matches, he has at most helped win 2-3 matches in his career. Is he in the side because he is the best in India? If yes, we can imagine the state of bowling in the country.

Posted by Rajaraman on (July 28, 2010, 15:26 GMT)

The Indians never have a game plan for all situations. They dont even try when the conditions are loaded against them, leave alone succeeding. When you play with six batsmen and four bowlers, your batting unit is supposed to defend whatever total has been given away by the bowlers. But you should also look at the fact that the Indians have never fared well in a overseas tour opening game. They always do well to come from behind and make amends in the subsequent games. But all said and done, unless the ICC takes steps to give the bowlers an edge in terms of pitches and technical rules (like bouncers etc) people will lose interest in test matches. Nobody likes to see high scoring dull test matches, even if it is the home team which is dominating.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for India in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He currently plays for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy; his book Beyond the Blues was an account of the 2007-08 season. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after Eknath Solkar.

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