Ashwin can take Bhajji’s place in all formats

At the one-day series at Lord's, India showed incremental improvement in performance. There is always a possibility that they could sneak in a win, finally.ODI

hidden September 10, 2011 18:59:52 IST
Ashwin can take Bhajji’s place in all formats

By Michael Holding

Munaf Patel is traditionally one of the better bowlers in the Indian team. He had a bad game yesterday, but I would not write him off. You need to look at the history of a cricketer, and in Munaf's case, he bowls quite well and gets the job done reasonably for India. I think it was a case of how India handled the bowling attack that decided the result in the end at The Oval.

You could see that the spinners were causing the England line-up all sorts of problems. This despite the fact that the pitch had some grass on it, but it was also turning quite a bit. The spinners were bowling well.

Ashwin can take Bhajjis place in all formats

Ashwin to me looks the guy who can take Harbhajan’s place in all formats of the game. AFP Photo

The England batsmen were a lot happier playing the seamers than the spinners, even though some of them may have been part-timers. They caused a lot more problems and England were not comfortable handling the spinners.

But despite the performance of the spinners, I do not believe, India needs to add another spinner to the attack for Lord’s.

It should be horses for courses and depend on each surface. Lord’s is a different surface and not many spinners do well there in either one-day or Tests. Lord’s is usually good hard, flat pitch, whereas The Oval on this occasion, although showing quite a bit of green, was not as hard a surface as it usually is. Hence the amount of purchase and turn the spinners were getting. This was evidenced by the quite prominent footmarks the bowlers were leaving in their followthroughs and how much the umpires were worried about bowlers encroaching on the danger areas. Normally when bowlers encroach on the odd occasion, the umpires would just have a quiet word but this time the odd encroachment was making an impression on the pitch which the umpires had to act on. That may not be the case at the Lord’s because in general the surface is usually quite hard and not as easily roughed up.

The nature of the pitch at Lord’s is reflected in the way the great Shane Warne or even Graeme Swann have thrived or not at Lord’s. These two are great spinners in their own right but have never set the world alight at this venue.

So I certainly would not think spinners would create serious problems at Lord’s.

But what India can build on is the fact that they made a great deal of improvement. They were a lot better on the field. You could even see smiles on the faces of the cricketers and they were enjoying the experience a lot more.

At 58 for five, I thought it was all over for India, but they fought back well and it was very heartening to see that.

I had said at the beginning of the one-day series that the guys arriving for the one dayers will do so without having any baggage of the results in the Test matches. They will be aware of the result in the Test matches, but will not carry any of the scars. Jadeja belonged to this category and it showed in the way he played at The Oval.

In contrast, the vice-captain of the side, Suresh Raina, showed his inexperience and immaturity with his shot selection. He needed to hang around and build a solid partnership with his captain. When he got out, there was a real danger of India not batting the full 50 overs. It was really irresponsible for Raina to have played that shot which almost robbed India of a chance to fight its way back in the series.

India although a lot better on the field, still had a few lapses but that’s cricket and what you’re looking for is improvements and there definitely was that. You cannot always get perfection, but they certainly did a lot better. Hopefully they can continue to improve and lift the spirits.

There is a lot of pressure on Dhoni in this line-up considering the fact that the team is depleted. There is always a case for Dhoni to push himself up the order and the hold the innings to steady the ship.

If he walks in early, it will give greater confidence to the team. The problem for India was that Dravid got run-out so early. So when Dhoni is considering where to bat, he needs to look at whether Dravid is batting or has got out. If Dravid gets out early, then Dhoni should step forward and take control.

But if Dravid is still there, Dhoni need not worry and should bat at his normal position. Apart from Dravid and Dhoni there is a lot of inexperience before the tail steps in.

Ashwin to me looks the guy who can take Harbhajan’s place in all formats of the game. But knowing how selectors think, I am certain when Harbhajan is ready to resume duties, they will think here is a guy with 400 Test wickets and available, we should go with him. But I believe Ashwin can do a very good job.

The reaction on his face after he got Bopara confirms his attitude to me. He was not elated nor was he rejoicing as he knew that a ball before, he had bowled a bad ball to let Bopara score a boundary. Ashwin knew that hit cost his team and so he was still shaking his head in disappointment knowing fully well that he had hurt his side’s chances in the contest. I love to see that attitude in young cricketers. It shows that he recognises that it's not about him just getting a wicket but about the position his team is in.

Overall, India showed incremental improvement in their performance. There is always a possibility that they could sneak in a win, finally. This is the nature of limited overs cricket, even if you are not at your best, you can hope for a good day and post a win. The key for India is to keep improving and lift their game as they did at The Oval.

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