The experts review the action

'Positives signs from Indian spinners'

Sanjay Manjrekar reviews the Nagpur Test (10:21)

November 23, 2010


Sri Lanka v West Indies, 2nd Test, Colombo, 1st day

'Positives signs from Indian spinners'

November 23, 2010

Ishant Sharma ended the series with Chris Martin's wicket, India v New Zealand, 3rd Test, Nagpur, 4th day, November 23, 2010
Manjrekar: "If India can bat well and put up big scores in South Africa this bowling attack might be able to be competitive" © AFP

Akhila Ranganna: Hello and welcome to ESPNcricinfo. Joining me is Sanjay Manjrekar to look back on India's victory in Nagpur.

Sanjay, a comprehensive innings and 198-run win for India, but do you think the manner of the win will compensate for the draws in the first two Tests?

Sanjay Manjrekar: Yes, if MS Dhoni and Gary Kirsten have to look back on India's performance in this series they will be slightly disappointed that they couldn't get a result in the first two Tests, especially because it was a team like New Zealand and they were playing at home. The general complaint from the Indian camp was that the pitches were too flat and there was nothing for the bowlers so that was offered as an excuse. So the moment the pitch had something had for the spinners and for the seamers, India beat New Zealand comprehensively and they made it count. So they proved to everyone that when there is a little help for the bowlers, they can get you the results.

AR: Sanjay, you have been critical of the last two pitches, so have the Indian team. But what did you make of the Nagpur wicket?

SM: I was delighted to see the pitch to behave the way it did. In fact on the first morning when India bowled, you could see that for the first time the new ball did something. We have had two Tests against Australia and New Zealand; and they started in innocuous fashion. The new ball would do nothing, there was nothing in the surface and it was swinging only when it was old. The spinners were only getting slow turn. For the first time here in Nagpur you could see the new ball challenging the batsmen. Sreesanth and Ishant Sharma bowled beautifully but the two deliveries that Sreesanth bowled to actually get that initial advantage for India were thanks to the pitch. He has been putting the same kind of effort on all surfaces but this time the surface had something for him. It was nice to see that and when the spinners came into play they finally got some sharp turn with bounce which was good to see.

AR: Yesterday you touched upon how well Ishant and Sreesanth bowled and also the fact that the Indian spinners were finally bowling a full length. Looking at the way Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha have performed in this Test, do you see any positives to emerge?

SM: The positive signs have been that quite a few of the Indian players seemed to have learnt their lessons and did things differently. When you look at it from that point, the fact that the first two Tests ended in a draw did something good for the Indian players. Historically the Indian spinners have bowled short-of-length with fielders around the bat. Very rarely have they bowled fuller, trying to get the batsmen out while driving. But after seeing the results in the first two Tests, there was clear change in the lengths from Harbhajan and especially Ojha. So they have learnt something from this series. So when they get similar pitches, they will now have this option to try. Harbhajan is not naturally suited to bowl the fuller length so he finds it that much more difficult as compared to Ojha. But clearly there was the endeavour from Harbhajan to bowl fuller. Harbhajan will accept that he still needs to get better and maybe a completely different scenario in South Africa: different pitches, different crowds and the media will not also be in full strength; so it might help Harbhajan relax and bowl better. but some very positive signs in this Test.

AR: New Zealand will be disappointed to lose this Test after fighting so hard in this series. But given the background: not many expected them to do well, they had lost to Bangladesh 4-0 in the ODI series …. What are the positives they can draw?

SM: There are more positives for New Zealand especially given the backdrop against which they came here. They should be very happy with their batting. Brendon McCullum got a double hundred, Jesse Ryder was hampered with injuries, but he showed some skill to hang around even with the spinners in action and proved difficult to dislodge, Tim McIntosh got a hundred and Kane Williamson is a find. I like the look of Andy McKay - he looks a good athlete, has a decent bowling action and seems a keen bowler as well. Chris Martin bowled a spell we will all remember. Daniel Vettori may be slightly disappointing, but this is what he has become after years of international cricket. So it may not be sensible to expect more from him. Mark Greatbatch would be happy with the performance his boys put up. To expect them to compete against India on a pitch like this was perhaps expecting too much. But it is only thanks to New Zealand that it has been an engrossing series. Otherwise we were looking at a cakewalk for India. But it was because of the fight that New Zealand put up that people have followed this series.

AR: What did you make of the BCCI's decision to rest a few key players for the ODI series against New Zealand ahead of the South Africa tour?

It is only thanks to New Zealand that it has been an engrossing series. Otherwise we were looking at a cakewalk for India. But it was because of the fight that New Zealand put up that people have followed this series

SM: Resting players has become the standard format and culture in international cricket and 50-over cricket has become the least preferred format for most players. So when the players decide to rest players not too much thought is given. They probably talk to the coach and the senior members to find out about the health of the players. Every time Dhoni has opted out he has said publicly that he is fatigued and needs rest. Some other players use the pretext of resting their niggles and to get rest, but by saying he is tired, Dhoni is honest to his fans and also reminding the board that it is impossible for someone like him to play all the game. When it comes to 50-over cricket only the ICC events and the World Cup matter to players; they look to put their feet up at other times. So I don't think a great deal of thought is given to who has to rest and who shouldn't be.

AR: The real big Test will be that South Africa tour. What are the areas of concern that remain for India?

SM: The history of Indian cricket has been that when India has played in familiar conditions the general feeling is that the batting is looking very strong. Then a tour of Australia and South Africa tells us how good our batting really is. It might be slightly different now; you are talking about batsmen who have excelled in all conditions. But our batting could come under pressure in South Africa. Our bowling is looking slightly better because of Sreesanth's form and rhythm, Ishant is looking better than he was six months ago, Zaheer Khan was in top form, Ojha has had a good Test, Harbhajan is beginning to realise that he must have a Plan B as a spinner. India has to bat well in South Africa to feel they challenge South Africa. If they can bat well and put up big scores this bowling attack might be able to be competitive.

AR:Thanks Sanjay for your views.

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