England v India, 1st Investec Test, Trent Bridge July 6, 2014

India hint at five-bowler strategy

India seem to be mulling playing five specialist batsmen and giving Stuart Binny a Test debut at Trent Bridge, going by how much action he has seen in the tour matches and in the nets

India's preparation for the start of this England tour reached its final stage when they returned to the field three days before the Trent Bridge Test. Having played two - albeit low intensity - three-day tour games, India took a two-day break from cricket activity, and made their first visit to Trent Bridge on Sunday. This is when they like to pick up intensity; they trained for close to four hours with almost all of their 18 players getting a bowl or a hit, and there might have been a hint that they are considering playing an extra bowler.

India don't usually like to bat MS Dhoni at No. 6 when away from home, and it can be hazardous to read too much into what happens at the nets, but it seems they haven't ruled out the possibility of giving Stuart Binny a debut at the expense of Rohit Sharma.

After the basic warm-up drills and a short game of football, the first-choice seamers - Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ishant Sharma - were sent to face the bowling machine while the batsmen came out to bat in the main nets - where Binny bowled for a longish duration - in what appeared to be their batting order. Shikhar Dhawan and M Vijay first, followed by Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli. Rohit, meanwhile, didn't begin padding up and worked with the strength and conditioning coach instead. Ajinkya Rahane moved into the main nets as Pujara went to face throwdowns.

Kohli's exit brought MS Dhoni into the main nets, which usually might not mean anything, except that everything else followed a certain symmetry. Ravindra Jadeja batted in the main nets next, followed by Binny. Until then 11 players had been part of the main action, and 10 of them were definite starters for the first Test. Binny can't be ruled out as the 11th.

Rohit and Gautam Gambhir did get to bat, but by the time they came into the main nets the main bowlers had either finished or were at the end of their spells. It seemed to be a continuation from the second tour game, played against Derbyshire last week. Binny bowled nine and six overs in the two innings there, and batted at No. 7 in the first innings for a quick and unbeaten 81. Rohit didn't bat in the first innings, and India only batted 18 overs after he came out in the second.

The indication from the team is that they are keeping their options open. The team's concern is that they have struggled to take 20 wickets, which they want to address. If the pitch retains its straw-like colour, and looks to be good for batting, there is a good chance they might take that risk. If the weather remains dry and they see possibility for more spin, R Ashwin stands an outside chance too, because as batsmen Binny and Ashwin are on same plane.

Binny is a military-medium bowler who is at his most effective in conditions that assist seam bowling, like he was when taking six wickets in an ODI on a damp pitch against Bangladesh. Trent Bridge is arguably the most bowler-friendly Test venue in England today. He, or more precisely a seaming allrounder, was a demand made by the team management keeping the conditions in mind. They had been desperate to get Irfan Pathan fit, but he had hardly played any first-class cricket over the last season.

If India do go in with five bowlers, it will be an extraordinary move. Dhoni has never batted at No. 6 outside Asia. The last time India played five bowlers was against Australia at home, in 2012-13, and you'll struggle to find instances of India playing with five batsmen outside the subcontinent. Considering how bold and unprecedented a move it might be, it will need due thought and care, which is what - eventually - all the activity over the last week might turn out to be. One thing is for sure, though: India are considering the idea, and five bowlers remains a possibility.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • kira on July 9, 2014, 2:43 GMT

    every body know if india want to win the series then they have to take 20 wicket in a match so why every one thinking abt batting line up why not bring ashiwn as a opener with gambhir

    my playing xi is this:

    1. ashwin 2. gambhi 3. pujara 4. rahane 5. kohli 6. dhoni 7. jadeja 8. binny 9.b. kumar 10. shami 11. last bolwer chose according to condition either aaron or pankaj singh

    this team showing bowling strength batting good if need can defence also rahane, pujara, kholi, gambhir they can bat long time even gambhir proof it before ..........

    bowling swing is most important in eng condition so we have good swing bowler bhuvi, good wicket taker shami, and for long spell binny

    according to me this is good team

  • kira on July 9, 2014, 2:33 GMT

    why indian cricket fan not understand ashwin can bat and he is good batsman he already proov it why not try to ashwin as opener like shewag shewag also started as a no.6 batsmen my team

    1] ashwin, 2] gambhir, 3] pujara 4] kohli 5] rahane 6] dhoni 7] binny 8] jadeja 9] varon 10] b. kumar 11] shami

  • giridhar on July 8, 2014, 16:26 GMT

    My 11 for the test: Gambhir, Dhawan, Pujara, Kohli, Rahane, Dhoni, jadeja, Shami, Ishant, Bhuvi, Aaron.

    Gambhir ahead of Vijay for his experience and determination. He can be both aggressive and defensive(to save test match if required). Rahane ahead of rohit because he has proven himself to be more sound temperamentally on away tours. Jadeja ahead of Ashwin because on english pitches we are looking at spinner to restrict rather than attack..especially a finger spinner and 4 pace bowlers to exploit the conditions....each of the pace bowler is different and we use Aaron in short spells at full speed. This is the first test and we have four more to go.hence india can look at different options from the regular 6+1+4 option they play with in India.

  • Dummy4 on July 8, 2014, 14:53 GMT

    My team is Dhawan, Rahane, Kohli, Pujara,Dhoni Jadeja,Binny, Pankaj, Iswar Pandey, Bhuvi. Test cricket is different from 20-20.Test cricket bowlers must be accurate, Arron And Shami is not even prove in Ranji criket... IF we continue to include Ishant the result will be same. People are fancy abt 20-20 seeing that they evaluate players. If dhoni follows that he is not fit for the job...

  • Dummy4 on July 8, 2014, 13:27 GMT

    India should take Ashwin for the most Bowler friendly wicket out of all five venues and take it from there.I have a gut feeling that he may turn the tables in the 4th innings

  • Dummy4 on July 8, 2014, 13:11 GMT

    It is always good to have 5 bowlers and 6 batsmen combination. Among the 5, one can be an all-rounder. Now Dhoni has to play a crucial role in batting line-up. He should use his experience and come forward as a specialist batsman. Not as a wicket keeper batsman. Of course he is the no. of choice of wicket keeper. But he should play before Binny (if Binny is playing). That will give more cushion to any all-rounder. My eleven M Vijay/Gambir, Dhawan, Pujara, Kohli, R Sharma, MS Dhoni, S Binny/R Jadeja, Ashwin, B Kumar, I Sharma, Shami. This is a long series. So if Vijay is not doing well, he will be replaced by Gambir. Same way if S Binny is struggling, then Rahane can be included instead Binny.

  • Dummy4 on July 8, 2014, 13:07 GMT

    1.M.Vijay 2.G.Gambhir 3.C.Pujara 4.V.Kohli 5.A.Rahane 6.M.S.Dhoni 7.R.Jadeja 8.R.Ashwin 9.B.Kumar 10.M.Shami 11.Pankaj Singh

  • Manas on July 8, 2014, 13:02 GMT

    Rohit Sharma will have to start working on his bowling...A certain amount of discipline in his bowling will probably help him earn a spot as a second spinner (part time ofcourse!) and will help him seal the no. 6 spot when India play abroad. Unfortunately none of the top order batsmen in the current setup are even half decent as part times when you compare them with the previous lot where they had the likes of Sachin (he was a magician), Ganguly (very decent medium pacer) and Sehwag (more than handy off-spinner)

  • Vinod on July 8, 2014, 12:29 GMT

    The only chance india has of putting up a decent show (fugget winning the series-aint gonna happen)is on green seaming wickets where our pathetic pop gun medium paced bunch of glorified off spinners stand a chance of picking up wickets. If we get true bouncy wickets on which the ball comes on, we will be staring at 550+ scores everytime we go in to bat.Am so happy that finally there is some focus and attention in the media about the whole 'picking up 20 wickets' thing.....as opposed to glorifying useless batting stats which we and our media were obsessed with for so long......nothing to loose - Go India!

  • Dummy on July 8, 2014, 11:37 GMT

    Binny's inclusion in team India is big question?I don't think he deserve this Rishi Dhawan is far better player than him it's a bunder of mistake by selectors and a bit partial selection and i want now to give him chance so that he will never think of this.