GAME PLAN: Indian bowling: Changing tracks for the worse

Jaideep Ghosh

File photo-PTI

File photo-PTI

Every series that India plays is always in the news. We had the series with South Africa, where we spent reams of paper and hours of air time trying to decipher what sort of pitch should be provided for a real game.

Opinions went in every direction, but that’s the very nature of every discussion in India. We really do like to air our views.

But what decides things is a reality check about how things are at home or away, how we deal with a situation where not everything is tailor-made.

It all began with the ODI series with South Africa, which culminated with a 400-plus score by the visitors in Mumbai as India surrendered the series at the Wankhede.

We had skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Team Director Ravi Shastri airing their disappointment in no uncertain terms, with Shastri even picking an argument with the Wankhede curator about the nature of the track.

Anyhow, it all boiled down to a series of square turners for the Test matches. And India made the most of those to absolutely decimate the Proteas.

Straightaway, up came the discussion on why we should or shouldn’t have square turners and how it was fair/unfair.

Yours truly always maintains that the true mettle of a player or a team is judged on a flat track, or on a track alien to your strengths.

Unfortunately, India have once again showed that they will always struggle on such pitches.

So we arrived on the WACA pitch and the truths of Indian cricket were reborn.

It looked all so cool for about 55 overs. Rohit Sharma did what he does best – hammer the leather off the ball – while Virat Kohli added his own little classy contribution.

Then Barinder Sran made a dream debut and Australia had lost two wickets in 4.4 overs.

Photo – AP/PTI

Photo – AP/PTI

But that was it. After that,

It isn’t always that a team is defending 300-plus runs and then gets two wickets early, and then loses. India managed this rather unflattering distinction.

We have, in the bowling ranks, the ‘best bowler’ in the world in the shape of Ravichandran Ashwin. We also have Ravindra Jadeja, who can run through any side.

All they need are dodgy pitches.

Ashwin was ordinary against Smith and Bailey on a perfect ODI pitch, while Jadeja was non-existent. Barring Sran’s early assault, there was very little on offer from the Indian bowling.

Exactly the same as Wankhede, wasn’t it? So essentially, flat tracks anywhere are a no-no.

Sadly, the curators in Australia won’t be browbeaten by Shastri.

One more point to be noted here was the difference in the bowling attacks of either side.

Suddenly, Josh Hazlewood finds himself to be the top gun of the fast bowling attack for Australia. With Mitchell Johnson calling it a day and Mitchell Starc out injured, he suddenly is the first assault weapon.

But there surely was a case to maybe throw in a Shaun Tait or someone of that calibre at the Indians. He doesn’t have to be in great form, he is fast enough to create mayhem.

But no. The Australian selectors went with guys who they could spare. Looks like the Big Bash League takes precedence over a few ODIs with India.

In addition to all of that, people have often been left shaking their heads in a little puzzlement as Dhoni decides on things. For example, do tell why Ishant Sharma, India’s top number in the fast bowling line-up, wasn’t in the XI.

We understand he had a finger niggle. But given that the line-up was pretty average without him, maybe there was a case to field him.

INDIA-PERTH-MATCH.2jpgLots of things about Dhoni are mystifying. Like, with Ashwin and Jadeja both in the line-up, he introduces Rohit Sharma as his first spinner. Maybe he thought Sharma would be on a high after his 171 not out. But bowling spinners part-time wasn’t quite what India needed.

Anyhow, that isn’t new either.

Dhoni is under the microscope for sure. His record as ODI skipper has been taking a dent since last year when India lost to Bangladesh. It wasn’t just a one-off, India were comprehensively outplayed for a series loss. Things didn’t look up later either.

In sharp contrast, Kohli has been going great guns as a Test skipper. Series win in Sri Lanka. A whitewash of the South Africans at home.

So give it a couple of more losses in the limited-overs format and the murmurs for Dhoni’s sacking will become a growl from the grumble they are now.

Dhoni went to Australia with a lot of conjecture about his future. As things stand, that looks a little bleak at this moment, since I somehow don’t see much changing for India in the matches to follow.