India v England, 1st Test, Ahemdabad

Pitch prompts Dhoni to rule out three spinners

Sidharth Monga

November 14, 2012

Comments: 28 | Text size: A | A

MS Dhoni has all but ruled out playing three spinners on an Ahmedabad track that is "on the drier side", but not quite the turner India got in Kanpur when they beat South Africa inside three days in 2008. Even though they were not present at the pre-match training session, Zaheer Khan and Umesh Yadav are fit and sure starters. With Ishant Sharma down with viral fever, Ashok Dinda is being flown in as cover for any last-minute injury to either Zaheer or Yadav.

Dhoni has made no secret of his demand of Indian groundsmen that visiting teams be given a stern spin test, but his faith in two quicks on the eve of the start of the series suggests the pitch might not be a "rank turner". "If we get a wicket like we got in Kanpur against South Africa, maybe we will even go with four [spinners]," Dhoni said. "Also what we need to see is if the wicket is like that, the fast bowlers also get a bit of reverse swing. It is always advisable to have a bowling attack where you have people for different scenarios, and I believe fast bowlers are important."

The square at the Sardar Patel Satdium has been relaid recently, the lower clay content promises breaking up, the pitch looks completely bald, but the groundsman is worried the turn on offer could be slow. "Looks like a good wicket," Dhoni said. "As the game progresses it may slow down, and the spinners might get some assistance. Maybe a bit of reverse swing for the fast bowlers.

"Definitely it looks on the drier side. I feel they have changed the soil from the last time we played here… Definitely I feel it will turn."

That Dhoni is not thinking of a third spinner has a lot to do with the return of Yuvraj Singh, who can - in the contest against England and Kevin Pietersen - even pass off as an allrounder. Even when Dhoni was asked about Pietersen's return, he said they will enjoy the contest between him and the "piechucker".

Yuvraj Singh arrives in a hotel, Ahmedabad, November 12, 2012
MS Dhoni has welcomed the return of Yuvraj Singh, saying his part-time spin will be vital for India © AFP

"He bats at No. 5 or No. 6, and his left-arm spin is very crucial for us," Dhoni said of Yuvraj. "The reason being, more often than not, because we don't have a genuine allrounder, we play four bowlers. So it's important that the part-timers contribute. Especially that phase when the ball becomes old and you are waiting for new ball, you can't use your fast bowlers, you don't want your spinners to be really tired because even with the new ball they come into play after just 10 overs. I feel his contribution will be very important. He is quite intimidating when he bats. If you see his good innings, he can really dominate."

The third spinner in the squad, who is all but likely to miss the Ahmedabad Test, is Harbhajan Singh. Dhoni said his experience, even if he doesn't get to play, will be valuable. "If you look at the top four or five spinners [in India], Bhajji features there," Dhoni said. The good thing is, he is now part of this series, and he can share his experience with youngsters. [Pragyan] Ojha has played with him in quite a few games. With [R] Ashwin he can share a bit more experience. He has a big contribution to make in the coming series. He will work a lot with the team. That should help him in the future."

Dhoni reinstated his faith in the spin combination of Ashwin and Ojha. "They understand each other very well," Dhoni said. "That's something very important. If it's not turning, Ojha is someone who can keep it tight.

"Ashwin will always be a more aggressive bowler, in the sense he has got plenty of variations. He loves to use those variations. I think one of the important roles of Ojha's is to keep it tight so Ashwin can attack from the other end. It's not just that. We have seen in innings where Ojha gets the breakthrough for us, Ashwin does the containing job. Best part is, if they know there is something for them, they come into the game."

Dhoni showed so much faith in Ashwin, he made Ashwin sound like the most versatile bowler of all time when asked to compare him with Saeed Ajmal. After paying due respect to Ajmal, Dhoni said: "Ashwin has also got variations. He can bowl almost each and every delivery that anyone can bowl. He has got the flipper, the googly, bowls legspin, offspin, the carrom ball…"

If Dhoni the captain is to believed, Dhoni the keeper better watch out.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by   on (November 15, 2012, 9:07 GMT)

you will come to know till tomorrow eveining how good your spinners are against good batting line up like england. this is not west indies or kiwies who dont know how to play spinners. i pridict 201 for 2 for ojha and 3 for 170 for ashwin, as no way england will be all out ha ha ha, it means zaheer and yadav will go wicketless as usual

Posted by   on (November 15, 2012, 2:26 GMT)

How was the kanpur test pitch so bad? if it was a greentop in SA and the first inning score was 265 and 325 and in the 2nd innings the visiting indian team collapsed for 121 on a green top. that would be called a "sporting pitch,Indians cant play bounce" double standards!!

Posted by InsideHedge on (November 15, 2012, 1:40 GMT)

I sincerely hope this wicket turns and it's NOT the slow variety. If so, England have no chance, not even KP will be able to bail them out.

Posted by InsideHedge on (November 15, 2012, 1:39 GMT)

Why does this sorry venue continue to stage Test Matches? Remember when Bhajji predicted a spinner's nightmare for the visiting Kiwis after we were seamed this way and that in NZ, 1999? For those who don't remember, we witnessed one of the most boring Test series in recent memory, it was a stalemate, even Craig McMillan scored a big Test ton. And one of the Tests was staged at Abad.

Posted by ramanach on (November 15, 2012, 1:35 GMT)

dhoni is like my school team captain. he always sends a fielder where a batsman hits 4 off the previous ball .he cant understand that any batsman cant hit 6 cover drives/pulls/straight drives/sweep shots/squarecuts for 4s in an over. really rubbish captain

Posted by ramanach on (November 15, 2012, 1:02 GMT)

it is terrible that uv was selected keeping youngsters like manoj tiwary,unmukth chand...etc. surely in indian conditions he may score. when uv goes to australia/southafrica he is going to b flop.crazy stuff.only in our country such things happen.players gets selected on the basis of image and stardom.surely time for selectors to try out youngsters instead of uv at no.6.uv in foreign pitches cant score runs.he is lazy footwork.if u need lefthander at 6 keep rahane and sehwag as openers and gauti at 6.

Posted by Puff_uff_dust on (November 15, 2012, 0:25 GMT)

Nice to see lots of strong (and sometimes in your face) opinions from both sides. Its been a long time since I have enjoyed reading comments more than the main article. I just hope the pitch does not have the final laugh as it has done for the last decade or so. Even though the pitch has been relaid if you look at the stats for this ground over the last decade it paints a sorry picture. This is one of the most dull lifeless pitch in India. Even if the pitch is dry it affords slow turn and has no bounce thereby nullifying both fast bowlers and spinners alike. Hope its not another Ahmedabad snooze fest.

Posted by JustIPL on (November 14, 2012, 23:55 GMT)

I think this time they are denying England facing three spinners like they did in wormups by not providing quality spin and dreaming about spinning England out in the test with whatever best spin resources they have. If Ashwin and the left hander (I forgot his name) do well then Dhoni will unveil the secret weapon,,,,,Bhajji. Lol.

Posted by   on (November 14, 2012, 22:03 GMT)

Swann is better than Ashwin, Panesar better than Ojha, & Samit Patel a better part-timer spinner than Yuvraj. Andersen & Finn are superior to Zaheer & Yadav. India, as usual, will depend on better batting, which on these wickets, and mainly againt spin, should be forthcoming.

Posted by HyderabadiFlick on (November 14, 2012, 20:53 GMT)

This is the problem with Dhoni. He makes these kind of statements before every series.India in 1993 series trashed England 3-0 with spin of Kumble, Raju, Chauhan. If I remember correct India batted only 4 times in 3 matches with one follow-on and 2 innings defeat to England.In this series too India must go with all out spin attack at least after what happened to England VS Pakistan in UAE. Remember the T20 in Sri Lanka when Harbhajan came back with match winning figures. Cricket is all about common sense and good reading of the opposition's recent form and weaknesses. Yes, I can understand if a Captain of the National Team plays more T20 cricket for his club will make these base less statements to elevate his club player to the same level as Ajmal and Warne and forget his oppositions strengths and weaknesses. First, he must tell us all when will he score runs in Test cricket and perform as a team player.He has been a passenger in the Indian team for too long now. - Jai Hind

Posted by   on (November 14, 2012, 18:24 GMT)

I feel like MS is a 90s-type skipper overly relying on spin and feeling comfortable only in home conditions. We need someone like Ganguly again.

Posted by   on (November 14, 2012, 17:54 GMT)

And Monga's nagging attitude of comparing average Indian bowlers with world class Pakistanis continue ...

Posted by xylo on (November 14, 2012, 17:42 GMT)

Thank God! I was wondering if Dhoni had demanded that Bhajji be selected for this series.

Posted by yorkshire-86 on (November 14, 2012, 17:30 GMT)

3 front line spinners is overkill on any wicket. Spinners rarely tire, and if the best spinner in the country and the 2nd best spinner in the country are getting knocked around, it's probably time for a new mode of attack, ie sheer pace, rather than risking the 3rd best spinner in the country.

Posted by simon_w on (November 14, 2012, 17:04 GMT)

i really can't wait for this series to get started. the only thing we know for sure is that it won't be as abject a thrashing as India got in England -- apart from that, many results are possible, from a convincing India win to a close-fought series which could easily go either way. i'm backing a 2-1 finish, but I'm not certain to who.

Posted by Al_Bundy1 on (November 14, 2012, 16:32 GMT)

Excellent point by Dhoni. Yuvraj can double as our third spinner. There's no need to play Bhajji, who's so afraid of getting hit that he has forgotten how flight the ball.

Posted by Al_Bundy1 on (November 14, 2012, 16:25 GMT)

Ashwin and Ojha are good but they are not in the same category as Ajmal and Abdur Rahman. Plus England have pretty good spinners in Swann and Panesar. It's not going to be a cakewalk for India. I want India to win, but considering that we are going to play 3 walking wickets in Gambhir, Sehwag, and 10dulkar, I don't have high hopes. I expect Kohli, Pujara and Dhoni to put up a decent total. They are our two and half men. Yuvraj might have been the hero of our 2011 World Cup campaign, but he is an unproven factor in tests. I hope he does well.

Posted by Cpt.Meanster on (November 14, 2012, 16:20 GMT)

I can't remember India ever playing 3 spinners except back in the day when my dad used to sing war songs in honour of BS Bedi, ES Prasanna, Chandrasekar, and Venkatragavan. But those were CLASS acts unlike Ashwin and Ojha who are babies learning the trade. So I am not surprised at Dhoni's reaction. India are likely to go in with 2 quicks (Zaheer and Ishant/Yadav) plus 2 spinners in Ashwin and Ojha. Yuvi will be the all rounder in the side with his left hand bat and slow left arm spin. So 4 main bowlers plus 1 all rounder will be India's bowling. Nothing surprising from an Indian perspective. It will be interesting to see what the other camp does; will Samit Patel be the all rounder along with Swann, Bresnan, Anderson and Broad ? Or will England go for Monty Panesar and sacrifice a batsman in the process ??

Posted by   on (November 14, 2012, 16:09 GMT)

if we don't get a real turning track this time around, then it would be a real shame on part of our administration even if we win the match.

Posted by challagalla on (November 14, 2012, 15:46 GMT)

Actually relieved the pitch is not a rank turner. I was worried of the scenario where we lose the toss and England bats first [ when the pitch is at its best ] and we bat second and worse last. Swan and Samit can be a handful on a rapidly wearing pitch and batting last, chasing is never easy. If the pitch is true we may get to see a more even contest. I think India is the favourite in this test and think they wiill do well. Harbajan should not be picked for sure. His best is behind him and we should look ahead. Yuvraj must play and I hope he is fit enough to last 5 days . Sad for Ishan, tough luck. Reverse swing should help Zaheer and we may see the Brits reverse swing the ball a bit.

Posted by Sri_chicago on (November 14, 2012, 15:40 GMT)

What rubbish does Dhoni speak - really?? Makes Ashwin sound like Shane Warne + Saeed Ajmal rolled into one. The paying public is hardly full of ignoramuses that he can say anything and get away with it. The whole world knows Ashwin is an offspinner (and an average one) and Dhoni talks about his flipper and googly!! Wow - the sooner we are rid of Dhoni the captain the better. Also, his partisan treatment of Yuvraj has been going on for years now. Shame on you Dhoni. The country should come first and that has stopped a while ago with you at the helm.

Posted by sk12 on (November 14, 2012, 15:36 GMT)

The best Dhoni and co can do is to play this series as 'business as usual'. just forget everythign about 'revenge(?)' and other crap. Just do what you hav been doing last several years, these are home conditions, we shld make it 2-0 or 2-1.

Posted by ssenthil on (November 14, 2012, 14:43 GMT)

If India have to win this series Ashwin, P Ojha and Yuvi has to take 16 to 18 wickets between them in each test for less then 250 runs. Means their collective bowling average must be below 16. Let see. I hope they can do it. I think time for Gambhir to hit form with Sachin. Hope Kohli still has the touch and form as he was this year.

Posted by   on (November 14, 2012, 14:42 GMT)

ha ha...well...all the faith needs to be delivered out at the pitch not in the press conference.

Posted by gnanzcupid on (November 14, 2012, 14:20 GMT)

Felt very funny when cook said the team had brilliant net sessions with some good spinners. Will those net bowlers have the same brilliance as that of ashwin and ohja??? Wishing to see the English men hide their faces in shame in atleast two tests of the series

Posted by gnanzcupid on (November 14, 2012, 14:16 GMT)

Ashwin and ohja will make the poms rest in peace.It should be watched out that bhajji should not give some wrong advices for ashwin.

Posted by QingdaoXI on (November 14, 2012, 14:14 GMT)

Dhoni dont worry about pitch, it will work good only if your field placings and selction of bowlers at particular stage is good. So you have already prepared better as a team, now plan better and employ it well. Hoping that India will start good from day one of this series, so see u tommorow.

Posted by atuljain1969 on (November 14, 2012, 14:12 GMT)

Series shall be decided on the basis, what Indian batsmen can do. Whether they can score in the range of 450+. If yes, then spinner can do something otherwise, Indian batsmen who look tremendous on paper, hardly put any resistance these days. They should only play one day or 20-20 which is better form of cricket.

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