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July 24, 2014

Do India stick with the same team?

V Ramnarayan
Stuart Binny may have saved India with the bat at Trent Bridge but he has probably played his last Test on the tour  © Getty Images
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"I have never believed in the horses-for-courses theory. Kapil Dev will get you wickets on a turner because he is a good bowler. A bad seamer will not get you wickets on a green top and a bad spinner will not get you wickets on a turner."

I was reminded of these words of the former India captain MAK Pataudi in an interview to ESPNcricinfo some years ago, when I incredulously scanned the Indian XI for the first Investec Test.

Trent Bridge produced the flattest wicket imaginable, and India misread it completely when they picked three specialist seamers and a medium-pace allrounder, Stuart Binny. Ravindra Jadeja must have been picked as the specialist spinner; or was he selected for his batting?

It wasn't Binny's fault that his bowling was found superfluous in the Nottingham Test, as indeed another medium-pacer, Vinay Kumar's, was at the WACA, Perth, two years ago, one of the few instances India have fielded four seamers. If his captain ignored him at Trent Bridge, Binny was ineffective on the rare occasion he was brought on at Lord's, where he would have been expected to be much more effective with the prodigious lateral movement on offer.

Unfortunately, when your first-choice fast bowlers are bowling well in friendly conditions, a fourth seamer is hardly needed. To Binny's credit, he played a valuable, polished knock to avert a small crisis in the second innings in Nottingham, and redeemed himself - gladdening all our hearts, for he is a popular, likeable sort of bloke whom everyone wants to succeed.

If the selectors had, however, decided to drop him for the second Test, they would have been perfectly justified, for batting is not his main responsibility in the team, and as a bowler he looked benign. The one time he found the bat's edge, he found wicketkeeper and slip playing truant. They chose to retain him, probably partly influenced by the look of the extraordinary Lord's pitch, but also perhaps giving him more marks for his batting than the circumstances justified. By doing so, they did a disservice to both Binny and the team, as he threw his wicket away at a vital juncture at Lord's, and his bowling there was undistinguished. Instead of leaving the scene with his head held high after the first Test, he has probably played his last Test of the series, with a question mark against his Test match credentials.

With two batsmen in Murali Vijay and Ajinkya Rahane showing glimpses of greatness in the making, Ishant Sharma recapturing his long-lost rhythm (perhaps helped by the responsibility cast on his shoulders by the exit of Zaheer Khan), and Bhuvneshwar Kumar batting, bowling and fielding beyond expectations, it will be tempting to maintain the status quo, but the team management is surely wiser than that. Ravindra Jadeja is unlikely to run amok with his spin on any surface other than a paddy field drying after a thunderstorm, so the return of Ashwin in place of Binny for the third Test looks inevitable. Mohammed Shami too could do with a break to enable him to revisit his basics; maybe pay heed to Wasim Akram's advice on seam position and use of the wrist and come back fresh later. With two fine young pace and swing prospects in Varun Aaron and Ishwar Pandey waiting in the wings, the selectors are spoilt for choice. Hopefully the tour committee will avoid sentimentality with the same single-mindedness Murali Vijay has recently shown while refusing to flirt outside the off stump.

This Indian team under MS Dhoni is perhaps immune from tendencies to euphoria or complacency, but the bizarre parade by the English batsmen against short-pitched bowling at Lord's could potentially be a curse. It will be a real shame if the likes of Ishant Sharma - just settling down to disciplined ways after years in the wilderness of abandon - are carried away by the thrill and excitement of the bouncer. Hopefully the captain will come up with a new formula of length suited to every occasion.

V Ramnarayan is an author, translator and teacher. He bowled offspin for Hyderabad and South Zone in the 1970s

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Posted by FX_5 on (July 27, 2014, 5:50 GMT)

Ind should bring in Ashwin for the remaining 3 tests. If not, Eng will have an upper hand to read Ind bowling and they will be better prepared side. May be we won in Lords, but yet Bowing matters alot now. Cannot depend on Mr.Inconsistent (Ishant).......and Jaddu not doing well with his wrist. Ash is the one who can try and create more pressure to the End batting order

Posted by   on (July 27, 2014, 3:29 GMT)

I have felt for some time that, for some reason, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar is underrated as a bowler, batsman and a fielder. He seems to have good cricketing sense, and does a decent job of whatever he is expected to. Even in some of the high-scoring IPL matches, he would often be the bowler with the most economical figures. With some good grooming, and a bit of luck, he can be a very good all-rounder for years to come.

Posted by   on (July 26, 2014, 16:20 GMT)

Nice to see you writing Sir, always look fwd to it....totally agree, bring in an offie for Binny w/ so many left handers playing...doubt it will happen tho!

Posted by SudeepSonawane on (July 26, 2014, 13:28 GMT)

Well written Mr Ramnarayan, but Sir, allow me to point out your omissions. You axe Binny, but pray what good have Dhawan, Kohli or Dhoni done in four innings? Yes, Kohli got out to good deliveries, but the other two are clearly short on batting skills required for seaming pitches. Scores show its not reputation, but how a batsman applies himself that matters. If Bhuvi can replicate Vijay's patient approach why Dhawan and Dhoni could not? Players who deliver should be retained, not those with reputations. Binny saved India the first Test, has been treated shabbily by Dhoni, and yet people want him out. Indian fans and cricket have to grow out of labels and reputations. Binny exudes a confident body language and is ready to fight, like Jadeja. Such fellows need to be persisted with, not those who ride on reputations. If Binny is dropped, his confidence will evaporate and Rohit will be under pressure to deliver. This will surely affect India's chances of retaining lead in the series.

Posted by   on (July 26, 2014, 9:36 GMT)

Bring Ashwin in place of binny...rohith is not required as he needs atleast 2 test to get his rhythm back at that time the series would have finished... see dhavan for one more match if he couldnt bat well then replace him with Ghambir

Posted by   on (July 26, 2014, 7:52 GMT)

Ashwin for Binny makes a lot more sense to me! Let shami be for another match. I don't rate Aaron or Pandey highly to be honest but that's me!

Posted by sreehk on (July 26, 2014, 6:42 GMT)

WELLL said article. The bottom line for team management is that they must bring in a specialist bowler in place of Binny. Certainly not a batsman. If they pick bowler then it reveals clarity of thought in the Indian ranks. And if they pick a batsman instead it reveals that India is not sure of their abilities. Apart from bowling resource, this is a little mental message to the opposition which can defeat them even before the toss. That is what a Steve Waugh would have ordered.

Posted by   on (July 26, 2014, 4:25 GMT)

If you want to be bold and positive, drop Binny and Shamii and pick Ashwin and Aaron.

If you want to play it safe, drop Binny and pick Rohit Sharma

Posted by Amit_4_Sachin on (July 26, 2014, 0:46 GMT)

Ashwin the bowler has let India down in every overseas test he has played till date, with only 9 wickets @75 in four test matches. Jadeja averages 49, with a 6-for in SA. Even at home, Jadeja has got better record. If Ashwin has to be played, he has to be India's second spinner, and fifth bowler in these conditions. However, he is a decent bat & will certainly be more useful than Binny.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

V Ramnarayan
A Chennai-born offspinner who represented Hyderabad and South Zone in the 1970s, V Ramnarayan is an intermittent columnist / blogger on cricket and other subjects. He is a translator and author, with books on cricket and the arts to his credit, a teacher of language and style at a premier journalism school, and editor-in-chief of Sruti, a leading Indian monthly on the performing arts. His works include histories of Tamil Nadu cricket and the Madras Cricket Club, and biographies.

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