Danger to the BCCI's DRS counter-reformation movement
Where are all the Indian fast bowlers? For most of us, this is merely a philosophical matter, to be pondered with other perennial chin-scratchers like: what is the nature of existence, how long is a piece of string, and if God exists, what's he been doing all these years?
But philosophy is no use in the harsh wilderness of the Zimbabwean bush. Philosophy won't help you decapitate an angry cobra, wrestle a ravenous lion or repair a bicycle puncture. Duncan Fletcher doesn't care why there are no Indian fast bowlers. He would like there to be, but there aren't. So what is a coach to do?
Nurture the delusion that your medium-paced huffers and puffers are lethal weapons, and appear appropriately shocked if any hack dares suggest they might be more pop-gun than rocket-propelled grenade? Ask Ishant to cultivate a droopy moustache, half-close your eyes and pretend you see Dennis Lillee? Bribe the chap who operates the speed radar?
No, in the absence of bowlers who can propel the ball faster than Jadeja, Duncan has decided he might as well pick Jadeja, although, since the ICC Conformity of Selection Regulations stipulate a minimum of two seam bowlers in every Test team, he's also required to chuck in a couple of dobblers; fitness and anger-management therapy permitting.
The result is a throwback to the 1970s, without the unnecessary displays of chest hair. Three Indian spinners playing in a sand-pit, with fielders clustered about like sun-hatted vultures glaring patiently at prospective Australian carcasses. In such circumstances, umpires need to have their best eyeballs in, as the fielders will be up for a good old-fashioned roar - which, according to Statsguru, occurred roughly every 2.75 deliveries in Chennai.
Often, the roar was followed by the appearance on our screens of a familiar ghostly corridor of stump-width proportions. But India are heretics in the church of the DRS, so we were deprived of the rest of the hoopla: the flashing lights, the squiggly life-support indicator, the infra-red CIA bat analysing device, and the sight of players sitting around scratching themselves as a man in a booth fiddles with the rewind button.
But if dust, revs and three short legs are to be India's salvation, they may want to rethink their position as leaders (and sole members) of the DRS Counter-Reformation movement. How long before Bhajji and his comrades in the Twirlers and Tweakers Union grow angry watching Ajmal and Swann hoover up the marginal lbws, and organise a pro-DRS season of action, refusing to employ their spinning fingers for anything more onerous than autograph signing and nose-picking, forcing a weeping Fletcher to field four seam bowlers?
For the time being though, the bowling looks fine; leaving only the ticklish problem of the opening combination. Chasing a small total in Chennai, Vijay was out playing a Compton-esque cover drive perfectly suited to a sunny June in NW8, but not particularly well-suited to the pitch he was standing on, which looked less like day two at Lord's and more like day 47 at a construction site.
And we need to talk about Virender. Sehwag's innings of recent vintage come in two flavours. There's "Sehwag Zero" (a swipe, a swing, and a limp dismissal, w"thout troubling the scorer). Then there's "Sehwag Lite' (a flat-footed clunk through There's No Third Man, a tantalising hint of what used to be, and a limp dismissal, having caused the scorer the amount of trouble associated with removing the cap from his biro and writing the word "four".)
Neither version will quite cut it, but demoting him would bring about a dramatic 50% reduction in India's batting legend quotient. How brave are the Indian selectors?
Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England