India flourish in spin-friendly conditions
Just over a week ago, if anyone had said that India's bowling would set up three successive wins to take them to the semi-finals of the World T20, he would have been laughed at. This was a side that had not won a single game in any format on its previous two tours, to South Africa and New Zealand. Things had gone so bad after the ODI series in New Zealand was lost, that MS Dhoni had said he had no clarity on which fast bowlers he could take with him to the 2015 World Cup.
In Bangladesh, an India bowler has been Man of the Match in all their three games so far. The major headache has become a major strength, as India have restricted Pakistan, West Indies and Bangladesh to below 140 each. Just what has changed so quickly from South Africa and New Zealand? It is all about the conditions favouring the India spinners, according to MS Dhoni. The India captain felt that with their inconsistent quick bowlers, India tended to find it hard on batting-friendly surfaces which did not assist their spinners.
"Where we have struggled in limited-overs format - both T20 and 50-overs cricket - it is wickets which are good to bat on and which don't support the spinners," Dhoni said. "That means even the part-timers have struggled in those few overs apart from (Suresh) Raina in the subcontinental conditions. If there's not much lateral movement, they bowl at the right pace to get hit may be.
"The bowlers who bowl quick, they don't bowl in the same areas. We have got definitely some potential when it comes to sheer fast bowling. Varun (Aaron) is someone who can bowl quick, Umesh (Yadav) is someone who can bowl at 140-plus. But still they are struggling to find their line and length. It may take a bit of time. Because once they go back and play domestic season, they can bowl back of length and get away with it in most games. But in international circuit it doesn't really happen."
In Bangladesh, and particularly in Dhaka, the pitches have afforded sufficient turn and some bounce for the spinners. There has not been too much dew around as well, even though India's games have all been night ones. India's spinners have taken 14 wickets compared to their fast bowlers' four strikes in their three matches so far. While Ravindra Jadeja has been a touch expensive, R Ashwin and Amit Mishra have thrived in helpful conditions and have not only taken wickets, but have economy-rates of 5.16 and 5.50.
"In this tournament particularly, I think, there is a bit of purchase for the spinners," Dhoni said. "We are playing with three spinners and even the part-timers... Raina has been bowling well, we have still not used Yuvraj Singh, Virat Kohli is there, Rohit (Sharma) is there. When the conditions favour us, I think our bowlers become very exciting and they make the most out of it. But they have struggled on wickets where there is no purchase for spinners."
Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo