India’s win in the first Test had many positives. R Ashwin looked a different bowler from the England series, everyone in the middle-order contributed and Dhoni produced an innings Adam Gilchrist would have been proud of. But despite the sheen from that performance, there are still a few questions the team needs to sort out before the second Test in Hyderabad
Should India stick with the same opening combination?
MS Dhoni has already gone on record saying Virender Sehwag should be given more time and India still need him to come good. At the other end, Murali Vijay is obviously first in line and fairness implies he should get more than one Test to prove himself. But winning a Test series is not about fairness. Murali has failed at the international level before, had a horrible domestic season and was dismissed playing loose drives in both innings.
On that evidence, India should consider replacing him with Ajinkya Rahane. Rahane has a far superior domestic record to Murali (or Shikhar Dhawan for that matter) and though he is not a specialist opener, has the talent to adapt. His game is also best suited to Tests. India has been carrying Rahane in the squad since the tour of Australia in late 2011. It is past time to see what he can do.
Who should open the bowling?
In the second innings at Chepauk, Dhoni opened the bowling with Harbhajan Singh and Ashwin. Over the course of the match, Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar bowled 33 overs between them without looking like taking a wicket, forget actually taking one. In Australia’s second innings, the spinners bowled 90 out of the 93 overs India sent down. And Ishant was only given those three (fruitless) overs because of stubborn resistance from Nathan Lyon at no 10.
Part of that was down to the pitch but partly also to the bowlers. Ishant has not looked like a wicket-taking bowler since coming back from his ankle injury while Bhuvneshwar, as good as he looked in the ODIs, failed to generate much swing. He did, however, show he can bat.
If India does want to continue to play two seamers then it is worth looking outside the squad and considering Shami Ahmed, or even Sreesanth, instead of Ishant in his current form. At least with Sreesanth, something is already happening. The game rarely drifts when he is around and he has the ability to get the new ball to swing. Meanwhile Shami can bowl around 140 kph. In either case, India will be hard pressed to do worse than no wickets for 114 runs.
What about Pragyan Ojha?
Ojha can consider himself unlucky to be left out in Chennai, but admittedly looked ordinary in the Irani Cup against Mumbai, a game in which he was outbowled by Harbhajan Singh. But Harbhajan was underwhelming against Australia, bowling too short and suffering in comparison to Ashwin.
The wicket in Hyderabad should be another spinner’s paradise - Ashwin took 12 wickets against New Zealand in the last Test there in 2010 - and Australia are a young side in transition and struggle more against spin than England did, so there is a case for playing four spinners. If Dhoni is not going to give his fast bowlers the ball, as in the second innings at Chepauk, there is no point carrying dead weight.
India can play Bhuvneshwar as an allrounder, drop Ishant and pick Ojha in his place.
If three spinners and two seamers remain the template however, then Ojha should replace Harbhajan. He would give India two attacking spinners, and his ability to restrict runs would give Ashwin the license to go even harder at the batsmen. Australia might be packed with left-handed batsmen, but picking your best players is always the best strategy.
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Updated Date: Mar 01, 2013 14:00:40 IST