What kind of pitch are we going to get at Hyderabad? It’s the one question that everyone wishes they could have an answer too. India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Australia skipper Michael Clarke both have decisions to make and in both cases, the decisions are going to revolve around the composition of the spin attack.
In India’s case, they still have options. Pragyan Ojha has been India’s best spinner over the last 18 months. If not the best, he has certainly been India’s most consistent spinner and Hyderabad is his home ground. He certainly knows the conditions — just as R Ashwin did in Chennai.
It gives the bowler a certain advantage. You know the way the wind blows and can use it to help ‘drift’ the ball. You know the end that perhaps has a little more bounce. You know the angles. Ashwin made the most of it in Chennai.
But Dhoni has a problem on his hands — should he tinker with the winning combination? Harbhajan Singh was getting visibly better in the second innings.
Senior sports writer Ayaz Memon feels that there is no way Harbhajan should be part of the squad if he isn’t going to play.
“I feel that if Harbhajan is part of the squad, he must play. No use having him sit in the dressing room. If you aren’t sure of playing him then you should rather give the spot to a youngster and let him get used to the Team India environment.”
“Harbhajan’s experience works for him. And I also felt that the decision to include him at Chennai wasn’t a face-off between the off-spinner and Ojha. It was Ojha vs Jadeja and that is one battle that Jadeja wins. He is a great fielder, can bowl and is an accurate bowler.”
Australia’s problems are much greater. Nathan Lyon was attacked but he did get some wickets. However, Australia don’t have another capable spinner in their ranks. Glenn Maxwell, Xavier Doherty and Steve Smith are the only options and none of them are great.
In fact, Australia’s newly-appointed spin mentor Stuart MacGill has warned the team against bringing in Xavier Doherty for the second Test.
“Xavier Doherty is a great guy, but he is not a Test bowler,” MacGill, who took 208 wickets in 47 Tests, told The Daily Telegraph.
“I’m sure he is awesome for the team dynamic and in the past five years I would say he has been in Australia’s top three short-form spinners. He is a fantastic short-form bowler, but I don’t think Xavier brings that to Test cricket and his first-class record supports my argument,” he said.
India will be looking to go 2-0 in the series at Hyderabad and if they can, they will rest easy in the knowledge that they can’t lose the series. Australia, on the other hand, will know that if they lose another match, their comeback in the series will be well nigh impossible.