The experts review the action

'India's spinners need to step up'

Sanjay Manjrekar looks back at the action in the second Test between India and New Zealand in Hyderabad (08:17)

November 14, 2010

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India v New Zealand, 2nd Test, Hyderabad, 3rd day

'India's spinners need to step up'

November 14, 2010

Harbhajan Singh powers the ball down the ground, India v New Zealand, 2nd Test, Hyderabad, 3rd day, November 14, 2010
Harbhajan Singh may have spoilt the part for New Zealand with the bat, but has to be more attacking with the ball © AFP

Siddhartha Talya: Hello and welcome to ESPNcricinfo. I am Siddhartha Talya and joining me is Sanjay Manjrekar to look back at the action in the second Test between India and New Zealand in Hyderabad. Hi Sanjay, New Zealand punched above their weight once again today and seemed to have evened things out at one stage but Harbhajan Singh seems unstoppable in this series and he's turned the game in India's favour.

Sanjay Manjrekar: Yes, they put up a tremendous performance again today and the famous Indian batting line-up was stifled again by decent, committed bowling and more than anything, some terrific fielding. But in comes Harbhajan Singh and spoils the party for New Zealand.

ST: Harbhajan has chipped in with a lot of important cameos for India in the past and he again put them ahead with his counterattack. Has there been a noticeable change in his approach or were these performances somewhere round the corner?

SM: This time we have to sit up and take notice of these performances because cameos come from tail-enders sporadically and they are not really efforts that one must go gaga over because they don't put a price on their wicket and if it's their day they come out, flash their blades around and get a half-century once in a while. That is something spectators enjoy and the critics watch and enjoy the ride as well. But Harbhajan has now got three consecutive scores of over 50 of which one is a century, and all three knocks have been important, critical contributions. First of all he wants to get scores more than just 25 or 30. After he's reached those scores he just wants to keep batting, which is an excellent thing, and wants to contribute to the team. He's always had strong arms, a superb ball sense and a good eye. What we've seen in this series is every time he's looked to play a big shot, whether it's a fast bowler or spinner, he's looked to go straight. I saw some stats that 50% of his runs in this series have been scored in that area, around mid-off or mid-on. That's a great area for a batsman to hit because then, the risk factor comes down dramatically.

ST: And the other star for India was hometown boy VVS Laxman, who's playing his first Test in Hyderabad. His innings really set up India on the third day.

SM: Yes it did because I thought India started poorly in the first hour or so today. Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid would feel that they could have been a little more positive because both have come into this innings with some form behind them. Tendulkar is in the form of his life, Dravid got a century in the last Test. There was nothing in the pitch, New Zealand's attack is not the best in the world. From that standpoint, Dravid and Tendulkar would feel that they were perhaps a bit too cautious. That's where Laxman's innings was critical. He took charge again and then the innings had a certain flow. The initiative was back with India before he got out immediately after the break.

ST: What could New Zealand have done more with the last-wicket stand between Harbhajan and Sreesanth? There were plenty of hits and misses as well as miscues. Do you think they tried their best?

SM: At the start of his innings, Harbhajan was really taking chances. That is a time you could say New Zealand were unlucky not to get him out, because Harbhajan was throwing his bat at everything. He survived that stage and then batted more sensibly. I won't look too much into the performance of the seamers. They were bowling on a pitch that has got nothing for them. Perhaps Daniel Vettori could have done a little better. I'm a little disappointed with the way the ball is coming off the pitch from Vettori. When you have two right handers of the quality of Sreesanth and Harbhajan, if you bowl a few balls spinning away from them there is a good chance you'll get them at some point of time. But those kind of balls just weren't bowled enough by Vettori. He lacked spin off the pitch and that made it a lot easier for the kind of batsmen Sreesanth and Harbhajan are.

ST: As you said earlier, the standout feature for New Zealand today was their fielding. India's lead would have been significantly higher if not for that.

"India have become a sort of a one-bowler team with Zaheer, and both Harbhajan and Ojha seem to be support bowlers at this stage. Both spinners are looking to bowl steadily, and one of them has got to decide who's going to be the wicket-taker"

SM: Yes, and you've got to take your hats off to these guys. They come here with limited experience but they enjoy themselves on the field. It's not easy. There are coming here in conditions that are completely alien to them but just watching them in the field right through the day, I think basically the fielders are just doing their job. They are not really caught up with how the team is performing. They're just looking to stop balls and have fun while fielding. Once you start doing that the fielding standards really improve so hats off to the enthusiasm they showed in the field.

ST: New Zealand made some very important selection decisions ahead of this game. They retained a struggling Tim McIntosh, brought in Martin Guptill as well as Tim Southee. For the bulk, those decisions seem to have paid off.

SM: Yes, I was glad to see Guptill come in. He's a guy who's played some international cricket before. He may not have had the greatest form before this Test but when you play in India, it's always handy to have guys with some experience. McIntosh, after a pair, to come and bat in that fashion, and grind it out and eventually get a hundred was a tremendous mental effort. Chris Martin has been the star performer for them with the ball, but Southee came in today, he was a sort of a workhorse and willing to just support Vettori and Martin. He also showed some good attitude and all that has just lifted the overall competition that they're providing the No.1 team in the world.

ST: This was also a very important game for Gautam Gambhir. He was extremely relieved at the time he reached his half-century. Was he at all fighting for his place in the side?

SM: I hope not because you can be tempted these days with the likes of Cheteshwar Pujara and M Vijay sitting out. But to drop people like Gambhir after a brief rough patch will be slightly unfair, because these are guys, when they're in good form, they provide you so much that when they are out of form we need to handle their situation with more patience. There are people now talking about dropping Suresh Raina because of the sheer temptation of getting people like Pujara and Vijay in. But a guy's who's got a hundred followed by an 80-odd against Australia, you need be patient with these people because these are young guys and if you drop them, the first thing you do is shatter their confidence for a long time. It's not easy after that to come back. So, if you have to drop somebody like Gambhir or Raina, you should only do so when you reach a stage where you have no choice but to drop them.

ST: And Sanjay, finally, where do you see this Test heading? Zaheer Khan was by far India's best bowler in the first innings. But Harbhajan said yesterday that he was happy with the turn and bounce on offer. Are the spinners the key for India in the second innings?

SM: They should be. The lead is likely to get to 100, which is a significant lead. We saw with the seamers that there was a little more bounce on this pitch. But India have become a sort of a one-bowler team with Zaheer, and both Harbhajan and Pragyan Ojha seem to be support bowlers at this stage. Both spinners are looking to bowl steadily, and one of them has got to decide who's going to be the wicket-taker. If Harbhajan is happy bowling containment kind of stuff then Ojha should be the guy looking for wickets. When you're looking for wickets, you're likely to go for more runs, and that's where I think India need to take a call. They need to perhaps look to take wickets at the cost of runs. The overall feeling you get watching the team and the kind of fields they have, it seems as if MS Dhoni is just looking to stifle the runs and hope to get wickets. It's only with Zaheer where wickets are prised out but with spinners he is playing the waiting game. I wonder if that policy should change at least with one of the two spinners.

ST: Thanks a lot Sanjay for sharing your thoughts. That's all we have for today's show. From all of us here at ESPNcricinfo, it's goodbye.

SM: Thanks Siddhartha. Thanks for having me.

Posted by Sven73 on (November 15, 2010, 7:53 GMT)

For an individual who has taken exactly 0 test wickets and has an mediocre batting average at best I find his attitude somewhat pompous. Harbajan, whilst not contributing as well as he should with the ball, has more than made up this drop in bowling form by scoring back to back centuries with the bat.

When will these armchair experts return to the mediocrity whence they came?

Posted by   on (November 15, 2010, 6:48 GMT)

I think players know what they are doing and what they need to do... They are matured enough and have much more experience and knowledge than some of the experts who keep on commenting.. Of course one can respect comments from Sunny and Ravi Shastri but not from others...

Posted by 12th_man on (November 14, 2010, 22:44 GMT)

Excellent series so far! I hope Harbhajan gets another century...but not much more and NZ bat well and leave India 250+ to get in two and a half sessions leaving Sachin a chance to reach crickets Mt Everest....50 test centuries and the match is drawn.


Posted by vicas on (November 14, 2010, 20:28 GMT)

fab batting by harbhajan,laxman,no word to say,unique style player

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