We’ve written and read a fair bit since the Mohali mauling about India’s near-perfect game, about the contrasting tales of the two captains at Mohali, about the Poms already rejoicing, about biased Match Referees, about reverse swing, about strange parallels between Perth and Delhi, and much more.
On Cricinfo, Dileep Premachandran analyses the Anil Kumble situation rather crisply, while Ian Chappell has opined that M. S. Dhoni has to stay on as captain of India from here on in!
My own view on this is that Anil Kumble has to decide what is best for him and for Team India. He has earned his stripes to make that call, in my view. If he is 100% fit to play and if he wants to play, he must play at Delhi, where 74 year-old Radhey Shyam Sharma, the Feroz Shah Kotla curator who is a match away from retiring, has said that he has prepared a “present” for Anil Kumble! The Kotla pitch has always taken spin — slow on the first few days and quite a handful on days 4 and 5 (if the Test lasts that long)! Anil Kumble has presided over Kotla as its master and it is more of a “home” ground to him than Bengaluru is.
If Anil Kumble does decide to play Amit Mishra, who took 7 wickets at Mohali on debut, must make way. While it is quite seductive for India to go into the Delhi Test with 3 spinners, Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma — at the cost of V. V. S. Laxman — I do not believe this will (or indeed should) happen. I am not sure what an additional bowler will add. Moreover, in what could potentially be a low-scoring grind-game, the additional bat in Laxman will be useful for India to have.
This will be rough on Amit Mishra. But his time will come the moment Anil Kumble decides to hang up his boots — my sense and hope is that Kumble will decide to retire after the Tests in November/December against England. For now, Amit Mishra has carved his name into Team India team sheet in a compelling manner.
Australia does face a few headaches. However, apart from an adjustment to their mindset (too defensive in the first two Test matches) and their reverse swing art, I am not sure that the team needs to (or indeed, will) change anything else. Australia does not have a quality spinner in its ranks. I’d like to believe that Stuart Clark will come in for Peter Siddle if the former is fit and recovered from his elbow strain. This will be a blow to Peter Siddle, who bowled quite well at Mohali.
The one change that I would like to see is in the Australian batting order in the case of an early wicket fall. At the moment, Ricky Ponting is not at the height of his game in India. An early wicket causes him to freeze just a bit. At Bengaluru, his defensive approach set the tone for Australia batting throughout the game. At Mohali, he strutted and stewed for a while without casting any impression.
I’d instead think that Michael Hussey at #3 would be a much better option for Australia on this tour. He is positive. He bats confidently. He rotates the strike without looking to dominate the bowling. And he is not scared of either Ishant Sharma or Harbhajan Singh!
Delhi should present a wonderful opportunity for Australia to show that it is still a champion team that can bounce back from adversity. Much like India did at Perth — one of India’s most famous wins ever, in my view — Delhi is a wonderful opportunity for the Australians to dig deep and come hard at India in India’s own den.
I have a feeling that the game could be an absolute scorcher and can’t wait for it to begin!