Five years back, overseas sides had second thoughts about welcoming India with greentops. India’s new pace breed started winning matches in Perth and Durban –– fair to say the process had begun in Leeds 2002. Seaming tracks had become an antidote to India, for their quicks would get 20 wickets too.
Going by the Wankhede Test, India might think twice about dishing out turners to visiting teams. If anything, England have shown that quality spinners can make Indian batsmen wince. And not just that. Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar actually bettered their Indian counterparts in skills, guile and planning.
The difference in the spinners’ air speed has been the talking point here. Both Panesar and Swann bowled a flatter trajectory, at a quicker pace, and still extracted turn. Why would you, after all, flight the ball when the wicket has spin?
Indian spinners, in contrast, gave the ball a generous amount of air that allowed both Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen to step out and throw them off gear. “I felt that the England spinners were quicker in the air,” Gautam Gambhir said.
“There was bite and bounce on the wicket, so some balls will turn and some will keep straight. The difference was the speed that they bowled. At times, they were quick and at times slow as well. It is important to know what kind of speed you want on a wicket where there is turn and bounce. So, maybe Monty and Graeme bowled with the ideal speed which made a huge difference.”
In the last session on Sunday, Gautam Gambhir and Sachin Tendulkar hadn’t rotated the strike for quite a while. It meant that Panesar was constantly bowling to Tendulkar and Swann to Gambhir, allowing the two to attack with set fields.
It would also be interesting to know if any of India’s former spin greats had alerted MS Dhoni’s spin machinery that they were missing a trick. Or is it easier to spray vitriol on social networking sites?
The role of India’s bowling coach Joe Dawes may also be questioned, although he needs time to grow into the job. In India, a bowling coach is usually considered as mentor to the fast bowlers. Dawes, a former Queensland fast bowler, is seen polishing the skills of the Yadavs and Dindas and he even bowls a lot at practice. But it has to be asked if the spinners are also working in conjunction with him, or benefiting from his inputs.
Meanwhile, Gambhir is optimistic and believes that Indian spinners, with a score of around 120, can still hound England. “If we can be 110 for seven, so can they. If we can give them 120-150 runs to chase, it will be a good score. When I played my debut Test here (2004), Australia was all out for 70-odd runs. So anything is possible. Even they will struggle to get to that score. We have three quality spinners. Miracles can happen and things can change very quickly. We just need to put some more runs on the board.”
Over to the Almighty.