November 30, 2001

A bold new step

The selectors must be congratulated on the bold choices they have made for the Mohali Test, especially in the bowling department

Who among India's bowlers are likely to succeed against the Englishmen in the forthcoming Test series? This would have been a difficult question to answer even last week, with the Indian bowlers struggling to pass South African bats and knowing that the lion-hearted Javagal Srinath had been rendered hors-de-combat, at least for the first Test at Mohali. But now it has become even more difficult to answer, with the English batsmen consistently making heavy weather of honest-to-goodness medium-pacers and slow bowlers of the domestic variety. It seems that any combination will do, unless Test-match atmosphere succeeds in lifting the level of the visitors' batsmanship and their leading lights get sufficiently acclimatized in time.


The selectors must be congratulated on the bold choices they have made for the Mohali Test, especially in the bowling department. They have sent out a message loud and clear that good performances in first-class matches, particularly against visiting teams, will be rewarded.
Normally, one would have expected the spinners to hold the upper hand against visiting batsmen unaccustomed to Indian conditions. Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh should pose a few problems to Nasser Hussain & Co. though, in recent times, England has coped rather more competently with spin than some other Test nations. Kumble must still be hampered by the after-effects of his shoulder injury and subsequent surgery, judging by his relatively slow arm-speed in recent matches. This unfortunate occurrence seems to have drawn some of the sting from his bowling. Harbhajan Singh appears strangely inhibited in the matter of giving the ball a hard tweak, not to mention his excessive pre-occupation with adding greater variety to his bowling. Perhaps, in the comforting surroundings of home grounds, the duo will regain enough confidence to dominate the English batsmen. And, depending on the nature of the wicket, the selectors will surely be tempted to include the third spinner, Sarandeep Singh, in the playing eleven.

The selectors must be congratulated on the bold choices they have made for the Mohali Test, especially in the bowling department. They have sent out a message loud and clear that good performances in first-class matches, particularly against visiting teams, will be rewarded. They have also shown imagination in placing their faith in the natural ability of young Tinu Yohannan without waiting for him to run through oppositions. It is, however, quite possible that his selection was hastened by his being an MRF-Pace-Foundation trainee.

For our domestic bowlers, who toil thanklessly only on cruel Indian wickets, this is a shot in the arm. Someone like Iqbal Siddiqui, said to be fiercely motivated, should carry his form into the Test matches with his morale heightened by timely recognition. Sanjay Bangar's exploits in domestic cricket have been quite sensational on occasion, especially in the shorter version of the game, but he has also shown enough gumption to shock touring batsmen with his enthusiastic medium-pace. Should he click in the current series, he should solve a major problem for India by adding that balance to team composition that only the presence of a genuine all-rounder can.

Should our new crop of medium-pacers learn to temper their enthusiasm and bowl within themselves, preying on weaknesses of individual batsmen, they should do a better job (than some of their seniors) of supporting Srinath when he returns, and also allow the spinners to bowl freely. Given the nature of Indian wickets, though, it is the slow men whom I still expect to lead the pack.