There’s a popular story that’s told about Sunil Gavaskar’s last Test: the low-scoring India-Pakistan thriller in 1987. After making quick work of Pakistan in the first innings — Maninder Singh got seven wickets on a crumbling Bangalore strip — India were poised to take a substantial lead.
A party which had Bishan Singh Bedi among the guests, changed it all. “I’m very disappointed with you guys,” Bedi famously told Pakistan’s spin duo of Iqbal Qasim and Tauseef Ahmed. “When the wicket is offering so much turn,” said Bedi, “why do you have to give the ball an almighty tweak?”.
Bedi’s advice was a guru mantra to Qasim and Ahmed. India imploded as the two located the right areas and allowed the surface to show its devilry.
Maninder finds parallels between Bangalore 1987 and the Wankhede Test. R Ashwin’s spells fills him with angst. “Why be obsessed with variations and not stick to the basics when the wicket has so much in it?” he told DNA. “In trying too many things, he ended up bowling rubbish.”
To reinforce a point, he cites the first Test, “In the first innings there, Ashwin was making them drive. That’s how he dismissed Alastair Cook. But in Mumbai, he was bowling a leg-stump length to Cook. How ever was he going to induce a mistake? Then, he was bowling short of good length. When you do that he don’t get bite off the surface.”
“I wonder,” he said, “if the coach or the captain had word with the bowlers. And what is Duncan Fletcher doing? Is he getting paid to sit on his haunches and stay quiet?”
Venkatapathy Raju feels when three spinners work in tandem, there’s a tendency to try too much. “If you are overeager, you end up trying too hard,” Raju said. He rues the lack of turning tracks in domestic cricket.
Asked if his spin comrades (Anil Kumble, Rajesh Chauhan) would have done anything different in Mumbai, Raju said, “Don’t forget we always had a cushion of at least 500 runs. Our batting didn’t fire at Wankhede, but don’t be surprised if it’s a different story in Kolkata.”