India v England, 1st Test, Ahemdabad November 14, 2012

Pitch prompts Dhoni to rule out three spinners


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".

"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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 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

  • Dummy4 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!!

  • Sanjay 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.

  • Sanjay 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.

  • ramana 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

  • ramana 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.

  • Sanjeed 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.

  • Tahir 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.

  • Dummy4 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.

  • Santosh 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

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