Monthly Archives: February 2010

Ton-dulkar

Isn’t it amazing? Nearly one of out every nine times, Sachin Tendulkar goes out to bat in ODIs, he scores a century (9.36 times if you want it to be accurate). His record is even better in Tests – he scores a hundred every 6th time he bats. He holds most of the batting records in both Tests and ODIs – most ODI hundreds, most Test hundreds, most runs in Tests, most runs in ODIs, just to name a few.

Now, he becomes the first to break the 200 run barrier in ODIs. Some of his records may never get broken, but I think this one will – probably a lot sooner than people think. Still, there is something about getting there first that fascinates people. Like a Roger Bannister breaking the 4-minute barrier or a Neil Armstrong being the first man on the moon. Tendulkar has several firsts to his name that people will talk about and celebrate.

But, what I find fascinating is that even after playing cricket for 20 years and when most people his age would be thinking about retirement, he seems to have a new found hunger. In the last 12 months in ODIs, he has scored 1158 runs at an average of 72.37. In this period, he has also scored four hundreds in 19 outings (he would have scored 5 if he wasn’t stranded on 96 against Sri Lanka a few months back). And all his hundreds have been big ones – a 163* against NZ, a 138 against SL, a 175 against Australia and now 200* against South Africa.

His record in Test cricket has been even better. In the past 12 months, he has scored 1018 runs at an average of 78.30 in the 10 tests he has played. In the 15 outings to the crease, he has scored 6 centuries  – that makes 10 international hundred in the last 12 months.

With frequent injury and age catching up, I thought Tendulkar would never get to a hundred international hundreds in his career. But a century of century doesn’t seem impossible anymore. He is on No. 93 at the moment and another 7 to go, but at the way he is going, I think it is a distinct possibility. Now, that is a record that will be unbroken for a long time to come…

-Mahesh-

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The ODI series commences

After the drama of the Kolkata Test, the ODI series between India and South Africa commences in Jaipur on Sunday 21 Feb.

If India lose to RSA, the SAffers will displace India as the 2nd Ranked ODI team in the ICC ODI ranking table.

India is once again hit by injuries and absences ahead of this three-match series. Gautam Gambhir (injury), Zaheer Khan (injury) and Harbhajan Singh (sisters’ wedding) are not available. For South Africa, Graeme Smith is on the injury list. I’d like to imagine that India’s injuries are far more telling on the teams’ chances than Smih’s absence.

As a result I expect that, despite their recent poor form, South Africa might in this series.

I expect India to field the following team tomorrow:

– Virender Sehwag
– Sachin Tendulkar
– Virat Kohli
– Suresh Raina
– M. S Dhoni (c/w)
– Ravindra Jadeja
– Yusuf Pathan
– Abhishek Nayar / R. Ashwin / Amit Mishra
– Praveen Kumar
– Sreesanth / Sudeep Thyagi
– Ashish Nehra

12th Man: Dinesh Karthik

I would like to see Abhishek Nayar given an extended run at this level and hence he would get in ahead of Mishra or Ashwin. Furthermore, after Yusuf Pathan’s recent Duleep Trophy performances I think it would be hard to ignore Yusuf Pathan’s claims.

— Mohan

Questions remain as India retain #1

After a tense finish in the Kolkata Test match against South Africa, Team India retained their #1 Rank in the ICC Test rankings. This means that the players and the BCCI will collect some small change on 1st April when the ICC hands out the Test Championship and a few dollars of baksheesh.

But some key questions remain for Team India.

Let us not take anything away from the Indian victory. To put things in perspective, India was without Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh and V. V. S. Laxman (for the 1st Test only) and Sreesanth. India lost the toss in both Tests and ceded charge of easy day-1 and day-2 pitches to South Africa. India was without her key strike bowler (Zaheer Khan) on the last day. And India played against a full-strength South Africa team. Moreover, after a debilitating loss in the 1st Test (in Nagpur), most teams will have buckled to another demoralising defeat. This Indian team, however, showed that it can come back at oppositions in a tough manner and pass stern tests of resolve with rare (and hitherto unknown) resolve. India were down and out at Tea time on day-1 of the Kolkata Test. But India did come back strongly and compellingly.

But some key questions do remain.

I have said it before and will do so again. Unless India can beat Australia in Australia and South Africa in South Africa, even though I am as one-eyed as they come, I am not quite willing to accept the #1 ranking as easily as I might or should. This is more so because Australia has beaten India in India and RSA in RSA and RSA has beaten India in India and Australia in Australia.

I would like to see India achieve series victories in Australia and RSA. Her chance of a win in RSA will come later this year when India travels to South Africa. India will have to wait longer to see if she can win a series in Australia.

And for these to happen, India will need to ask some serious questions of her personnel.

From what I have seen in these last two Tests, India had better start “preparing” replacements for Laxman, Dravid and Tendulkar from now. While we may claim a strong bench strength in M. Vijay, S. Badrinath, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, et al, these are mostly untested. Questions remain to be asked of Vijay and I am really not to sure that Badrinath belongs. Given that Yuvraj Singh himself hasn’t quite cemented his Test-team place in a compelling manner, I do believe that the “what happens next after the departure of Dravid-Tendulkar-Laxman” question needs a really strong answer.

The difference in batsmen’s approach between the 1st Test and the 2nd Test was obvious. Even if we remove the superb spell of fast bowling by Dale Steyn in Nagpur, the difference in the approach of Sehwag and Tendulkar was clear to see in Kolkata because they were — it is quite likely — comforted by the knowledge that Laxman was there at #5 in case one of them were to depart. The absence of that middle-order solidity led to a mind-freeze in Nagpur, in my view.

India needs a match-ready pair of batsmen and she needs them now. VIjay did have that swagger and that approach that inspired confidence. He has that “I belong here” body language. I am not convinced that Badrinath has it. While I am willing to discount his performance in Nagpur, where the ball was talking and the team was really under the pump, there can be no excuse for his approach and performance in Kolkata. He could have played calmly and with a clear head on a placid pitch. The team was in a solid position and the pitch was really doing nothing much. Badrinath did not inspire confidence in me at all and questions must be asked of his place at this level. Perhaps a great opportunity was missed.

The other concern is the bowling. Without a fit and in-form Zaheer Khan, the attack looks pale. Harbhajan Singh has his days when he can be menacing, but with him it is a bit of a lottery, in my view. For India to win consistently overseas, the team needs an all-weather bowler in the Anil Kumble mould. For that to happen, Harbhajan Singh needs to accept that he is the teams’ lead bowler. He needs to ensure that he wakes up on the right side of the bed every day. I feel that it is all in his preparation and nothing else. Someone needs to sit him down and convey to him the responsibilities that come with being the lead striker. On off days and on pitches that do not offer assistance, he needs to bowl maidens and keep things tight. An off-form Ishant Sharma and a low-key Amit Mishra are other concerns for India.

The team does boast of strong reserves in Sreesanth, Sudeep Tyagi, Praveen Kumar, Abhimanyu Mithun, Dhawal Kulkarni, Ashok Dinda, Munaf Patel, Pankaj Singh and others, but these bowlers need to be tested in situations that are far tougher than the the various domestic competitions.

Another concern is team balance. Unless India finds a good/strong all-rounder, the team is stuck with a 4-bowler policy. If any one of these bowlers is off injured — or has an off day — the pressure on the other resources becomes enormous (as we saw in Nagpur).

There are some all-rounder contenders around who are either not given enough opportunities — or appear and disappear with alarming consistency. Players like Abhishek Nayar, Yusuf Pathan and Ravindra Jadeja have to be given longer ropes to work with.

I feel that unless India plans plenty of A-Tours to Australia, South Africa, West Indies, England and Sri Lanka in the next year, I am afraid these questions will continue to be asked.

South Africa does have some deep questions of their own to answer. At the start of the series I did say that my main concerns with them were (a) the form of Duminy and Ashwell Prince, (b) the ability of Paul Harris, (c) their ability to play quality spin.

Questions (a) and (b) remain, while the team has thrown up a few players (Amla, in the main) that have the technique and temperament to handle quality spin!

I do believe that Paul Harris is an ordinary bowler. Any bowler who constantly bowls 2 feet outside leg-stump is essentially telling the world that he is an ordinary bowler! If I were a good bowler and my captain asks me to bowl a negative line, I would either tell my captain to find another bowler to do that or tell my captain that I am good enough to bowl to take wickets! I can’t remember who it was who said it, but it was said that “Paul Harris could not turn a door handle if he had to.” But having watched him bowl in this series, I am convinced that unless South Africa find a real spinner who can turn the ball and bowl attacking lines, the team is going to continue to choke when it matters most. And after the tremendous display of Alviro Petersen at the top, either Duminy or Ashwell Prince will, I believe, have to make way. I do believe Ashwell Prince will make way in what will be a strong team that will emerge from this series. I like South Africa’s team balance with Duminy as a good off-spin bowler and Kallis as a terrific, though under-rated, all-rounder. I will not be surprised if South Africa claim the #1 Rank from India in the near future.

Yes, India did emerge out of the South Africa series as #1 but I believe the home team has more questions and fewer immediate answers.

— Mohan

The Kolkata Test

Postscript as Introduction:

Perhaps Kris Srikkanth knew something that we all did not know! Perhaps Goddess Durga appeared in his dreams one night and informed him that a Saha would be a champion player this week. He woke up and sent Wriddhiman Saha to Nagpur and when he realized that that was a dud, sent him packing to his home town in Kolkata. But then, in so doing, he cost India a Test match and possibly the #1 Test Rank. Should he resign? I think so. Meanwhile, Goddess Durga was right. A Saha did become a champion player this week. Unfortunately for Kris Srikkanth, that Saha was Louis Saha, who scored two goals for Everton against Chelsea! — [Thanks to Sam Kumar for that nugget]

Team India suffered the ignominy of an innings defeat in Nagpur and move now to Kolkata to salvage more than pride. India needs to play a sensational brand of cricket to stop the South Africans from claiming the series and with it, the #1 spot in the ICC Test Rankings. While Indian cricketers may not yearn for it perhaps as much as others, there is also the small matter of a prize purse, come the 1st of April when the ICC will dole out some loose change to the team that is #1 at that time.

More than anything else, the manner of the loss in Nagpur will sting Team India and the manner in which the team has made recent strides.

I have always believed that Team India did not really deserve to be #1, given that it has not beaten Australia and South Africa in their home dens. That said, the team has been making steady progress in its journey towards becoming a team that is radically different from Indian teams from the 90s that had plenty of class but little substance; teams that had fragility that would make a toy made from match sticks feel good about its lot in life. The present Team India has demonstrated that it is made of sterner stuff.

Yes, one can point to the absence of Rahul Dravid, V. V. S. Laxman, Yuvraj Singh and Sreesanth from the team — all of whom would perhaps be automatic picks in the Test team perhaps. However, a great team (and even a good team) has to rise above these losses and has to depend on the reserves to dig it out of situations like the one faced in the lead up Nagpur.

The selectors have to take the blame for the sordid mess that left the team with little option other than play Wriddhiman Saha as a batsman! Like other wicketkeepers from that part of India (Deep Dasgupta and Saba Karim) Saha has to now make a separate trek back to Kolkata, wondering what wrongs he had committed. Saha was picked as a ‘keeper and played as a batsman and now makes way for a ‘keeper? Or has he made way for a batsman? Or indeed, has he made way for a zonal selection? I have lost confidence in this selection committee and hence these questions.

If Wriddhiman Saha was the second best ‘keeper in the land, should he not have stayed on for Kolkata as a reserve ‘keeper? Or was he picked for Nagpur as the next best batsman in the land? Even if the selectors were on drugs, I am confident (despite my lack of faith in their ability to even distinguish their backsides from their elbows) that they did not pick Saha as the next best batsman in India. So let us assume that they picked Saha as the next best ‘keeper in the land. So, what has happened in 7 days for the selectors to think that Karthik was suddenly a better reserve ‘keeper? This is the same question that Sanjay Subrahmanyan asked earlier too.

These are questions need to be asked.

At the end of the Bangladesh series, it is likely that Dinesh Karthik was a zonal selection sacrificial lamb who had to make way for Badrinath’s entry into the team. Who knows what transpired in the sleazy dungeon that represents the Indian team selection committee rooms. However, what is palpably obvious is that the team selection was wrong. The selectors went with too many bowlers and too few batsmen at a time when 2 key batsmen were definitely injured and one other batsman was living on one working playing hand, with the other one injured badly. The logic of that selection imbalance defies belief and for that reason, I do believe that, although Kris Srikkanth has taken personal responsibility for the mess, he must hand in his resignation papers. Srikkanth has demonstrated that his committee is unable to rise above zonal politics. Any person with integrity and substance would have handed their papers in by now already. It is not enough to just take personal responsibility. He is either a weak chair who is unable to get his committee to rise above zonal politics or he is in charge of a committee that cannot arrive at good decisions. How else can one explain a situation where the team had more bowlers than batsmen when there were 3 injured batsmen in the first team list?

In his interview, Srikkanth says, “In hindsight, we didn’t have Rahul (Dravid), who is a fantastic player of fast bowling. Laxman was injured… we were hopeful of his recovery but unfortunately that didn’t happen and then Rohit got injured. So, I would say it was fate,” he added.

And therein lies the problem. This committee relies on hindsight when what is needed is foresight!

Moreover, any decision that is based on a hope and a prayer is made by people who ought not to make these decisions! Decisions have to be made not on a hope, but on medical assessments on a players’ availability. The selectors should have taken tough decisions instead of reaching for their prayer beads! Rohit Sharma himself was a last minute addition and with his addition, there was no batsman to cover in case of a freak injury or a stiff neck or a headache or a sprained calf muscle to any of the other batsmen.

The selectors have to be requested to go home with their prayer beads! I am not braying baying for blood. I am seeking accountability as a Team India fan.

And so, where to from here for Team India?

Despite the alleged lamentable statements by the Kolkata curator, I do believe that Indis’ best chance is spin on a “turner” or a “dust bowl”.

I am not sure why a “turner” is held in such contempt or disrespect (mainly by people that can’t play spin). If a batsman is good enough, they ought to say “give me a pitch… any pitch”.

Terms like “turner” and “dust bowl” have become pejoratives in current cricket lingo because they have been turned into pejoratives by people who make and set these views; by people who cannot play spin!

Just as Durban, Melbourne, Lords’ and Sabina Park offer bounce and carry, Indian pitches ought to offer spin. I say “ought to” because that’s what the natural conditions provide. “Dust bowls” has become a derogatory term these days. I love dust bowls. They offer a difference in a world that craves for a sameness — a sameness that is imperialistic in its notion and connotation.

Give me a dust bowl any day. I like to see batsmen charge a spinner. I grew up on that diet and love it just as I love to see batsmen hopping around in Durban or Sabina Park.

For years, Indian curators have been doctoring pitches in response to idiotic clarion calls from administrators in South Africa, England and Australia that have wanted the “sameness” of bounce and carry and grass with the one-eyed notion that that’s what a cricket pitch ought to look like. These clarion calls have been based on the very imperialistic notion that suggests that despite local conditions, the only brand of toothpaste that is valid is Colgate! I detest this craving for “sameness” just as I detest the response from Indian curators who bend over backwards to prepare the kind of pitch that we saw in Nagpur against the Australians in 2004.

As I have said before, I will accept a seaming, bouncy pitch in Nagpur when I see a dust bowl in Durban. Surely, if it is possible to create a dust bowl in Kolkata it should be possible to create one in Durban?

No?

Why? Because the soil conditions and environment there make it impossible to create a dust bowl in Durban?

Then why is there the expectation that Kolkata should unnaturally offer seam, bounce and carry?

I do hope the Indian curators stop doctoring pitches and prepare spinning tracks, for that is what the natural soil condition provides. I am tired of seeing a oneness and sameness in everything in the world that suggests that the only pitch that is worth offering is one that offers seam, bounce and carry.

Despite the above arguments, I do think South Africa will win. This is a full-strength team that has depth and dimension. The batsmen are in form. The bowling is terrific and the teams’ mental toughness is remarkable. I loved the way the South Africans played the Nagpur Test. It has a India-at-Leeds feel to it. Apart from the first half hour or so, they were in utter control of the match and seemed to know exactly what they were doing. Even when Paul Harris was bowling just that brand of cricket that I detest, the South Africans gave the impression that they were in control.

India can bounce back, but in order for that to happen, the team needs to play out-of-their-skins cricket.

I can’t see Mishra and Ishant Sharma playing in the Kolkata Test. Ojha and Sreesanth will perhaps play and Laxman will play instead of Saha in the XI, with Laxman coming in at #3.

Bring it on.

— Mohan

2nd Test team – Why Raina/Karthik?

The BP XI against SA had Abhinav Mukund, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Cheteswar Pujara, Abhishek Nayar, Shikar Dhawan and Manish Pandey besides Parthiv Patel a the keeper. Of the lot Rohit Sharma was chosen to stay back as cover for Laxman in the 1st test. He promptly got injured and Saha got a lucky test debut.

Strangely Raina is nowhere to be seen in this middle order bench that played for the BP XI. So how come suddenly the selectors wanted Raina ahead of stronger claims from people like Pandey or Nayar. Initially I thought I had stumbled upon the perfect answer that Raina was a left hander and they wanted him to tackle Paul Harris since there is no left hander in the middle order. Now I would have gone for Abhishek Nayar if I wanted a left hander or Manish Pandey simply because of the promise and the form he has been in. Both the initial selection of Rohit Sharma or the inclusion of Raina does not make sense to me.

Another strange selection is to bring back Karthik after his century in each innings in the Duleep final. Karthik was dropped after the Bangladesh tour and Saha picked as a reserve wicket keeper. Now Saha makes a debut as a reserve batsman and gets dropped. Another wicketkeeper who was dropped gets back in for scoring two centuries and will play as a reserve batsman?? Do we really need a reserve wicketkeeper for a home series? Or is Karthik is the next best batsman in the country?

Sanjay

The Real Test begins!

India take on South Africa (RSA) in a 2-Test series starting today (6 Feb 2010). It is a battle between #1 and #2 sides in the ICC Test rankngs. Having said that, in my view, the ranking system cannot really be that good if it rewards a team that has never won a series in Australia or South Africa! Nevertheless, thems the breaks. India did not construct the ranking system!

The fact is that, starting today, the 1st ranked Test team takes on the 2nd ranked Test team in what will be a cracker of a contest. I can’t wait. Bring it on!

In my view, if India come out of this with a win or a draw (a) it will be a minor miracle, (b) I will start to accept this team as a “good” if not “terrific” team, (c) the team will have secured help from spin-friendly pitches.

I have absolutely no problems with spin-friendly pitches in India. Let me state my position on this VERY clearly. The day I see/hear/read Ian Chappell and Mikey Arthur complain that Perth and Durban are too bouncy and offer their home teams undue advantage, I might consider writing an article bemoaning spin-heavy conditions in Chennai or Kolkata. You don’t expect to go to San Fransisco and whine that the city does not have the Taj Mahal! Similarly, Indian pitches afford spin. Night follows day!

Considering the fact India is without Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh (possibly) Laxman and Sreesanth, India are behind the eight-ball against a full strength opposition that is itching to claim #1. Given this I am doubly sure that India should offer the kinds of pitches that the local soil and environment offers and should NOT “doctor” pitches to offer unnatural conditions.

M. S. Dhoni is yet to lose a Test as India captain. I will not be surprised if he blemishes his copy book in this series against a hungry opposition. The loss of Dravid, Yuvraj and, possibly, Laxman will be a blow. While their “replacements” will, no doubt, be tough competitors, the real blow is likely to be to the mental approach of the rest of the batsmen. If Sehwag, Gambhir, Tendulkar and Dhoni, the mainstay Indian batsmen, adopt an early-90s Indian batsmens’ mental attitude, then India will, I believe, be cooked in this series. India needs the above four to play with clear minds.

The batting replacements for Dravid, Laxman and Yuvraj Singh are good, but untested at this level. It is a perfect opportunity for Badrinath, Vijay and Rohit Sharma to announce their names on a big world stage. I do not mind this bapism one bit. As I said earlier, this to me is a test of Indias recent strides as much as anything else. These stores have been impressive. This test will reveal if luck played a bigger role than warranted.

South Africa has problems too. They are without a full time coach and a selection committee. Even so, I’d rather have their problems than have 4 key players on the injury list. The real problem for South Africa, in my view, are (a) the forms of Ashwell Prince and Duminy, (b) ability to take on quality spin, (c) the form or Paul Harris.

The above problems are, in my view, smaller than those that India faces.

So I expect a tough, gripping and exciting cricket. I think South Africa might win unless India prepares spinning pitches.

India’s spinning reserves

VVS Laxman in Opening Up has mentioned among other things the lack of bench strength as far as spinners are concerned. CricInfo also has an article dedicated to this comment, and hopefully this will help highlight the problem a fair bit. But I am a bit surprised at the attention it is getting.

This is not a new problem. Since Bedi, Venkatraghavan, Prasanna and Chandrasekar left the scene, there has been only one reliable spinner who we can call a match winner – Kumble, and even he is not a spinner in the classical mould.

Harbhajan Singh, probably comes in next, but he is who I call a “confidence bowler”. If he gets a wicket or two, then he is suddenly a different bowler – you soon see the flight, the loop and turn in his bowling. Give him a bit of stick, and his bowling becomes flat, fast and defensive.  Since Kumble’s retirement, Bhajji in my opinion hasn’t really stepped up, either. Granted, India haven’t been playing as many tests as we would like them to, but he has had only one 5 Wicket haul since Kumble’s retirement – you would expect more from your main spinner.

The pitches in India haven’t helped either. Who would have thought that someone like Murali would struggle to get wickets in these flat pitches either?

There have been spinners in the Indian team who have come and gone – Dilip Doshi, L. Sivaramakrishnan, Shivlal Yadav, Maninder Singh, Venkatapathy Raju, Sunil Joshi, … the list goes on and on. But, in the last 25 years or so, we’ve never had great spin reserves. Actually, this is true for most countries – there are good quality fast bowlers cropping up all the time, but spinners are harder to unearth. Let us look at the spinners currently playing Test cricket around the world –

  • Australia – Nathan Hauritz
  • Bangladesh – Shakib Al Hasan
  • India – Harbhajan Singh, Mishra, Ojha
  • Pakistan – Danish Kaneria, Saeed Ajmal
  • Sri Lanka – Murali, Herath , Mendis
  • West Indies – Suleiman Benn
  • South Africa – Paul Harris, Botha
  • England – Graeme Swann, Monty Panesar
  • New Zealand – Daniel Vettori, Jeetan Patel

If I were to pick quality spinners from that list, I would pick two or at the most three. If that is the case, then imagine what the reserve list is like.

Having said all this, India’s spinning reserves while not being great is not that bad in my opinion, when compared to other countries. Apart from Harbhajan Singh, we have the following bowlers –

Leg spin

Mishra, Chawla

Right arm off spin

Ashwin, Mohnish Parmar, Ramesh Powar, Lahiri

Left arm orthodox

Ojha, Iqbal Abdulla, Murali Karthik, Appanna, Jadeja, Aushik Srinivas, …

The two leg spinners in the list have already played for India and currently Mishra seems to have the edge over Chawla. Although Mishra has bowled well in the opportunities he has been provided with, let us not kid ourselves – he is a good support bowler, but is unlikely to run through a side easily – even, while playing in India. Or maybe, I should say, especially while playing in India. The Indian pitches have not been kind to wrist spinners (with the exception of Kumble – but he is not, as I said earlier, a wrist spinner in the classical sense). The Qadirs, the Warnes and the likes have come and gone with little success here. There is something in the pitches in India that doesn’t really suit these kind of bowlers. So, if I were a selector I would pick a leggie based on the pitch and the team they are facing. Which means that we have to pick 3 spinners in the side (not in the playing XI, but the XV).

As far as off-spinners go, we seem to have quite a short fall. Ramesh Powar has been tried with little success, and I am not sure if he will be tried again. Mohnish Parmar has a suspect action, and although he has now been cleared, he will need time to prove himself. The only other bowlers in this category happen to be R. Ashwin from Tamil Nadu and Saurasish Lahiri from Bengal.  Of the two, Ashwin is a contracted player and may get a look-in ahead of Lahiri. I don’t think Ashwin is quite ready for the longer version of the game, but he may actually be the next in line if Harbhajan Singh is injured and we need an off-spinner. (Interestingly, I read an article in the Hindu about the lack of off-spinners recently. I googled to find what the link was and here is the actual article – http://beta.thehindu.com/sport/cricket/article61426.ece)

The list of left arm orthodox bowlers is quite long, though. The standouts currently are Ojha and Abdulla, and although Ojha bowled reasonably well in Bangladesh, we need to see him play against a team like South Africa to see where he really stands as a bowler. Ravindra Jadeja has not bowled badly, but most people still see him as an all rounder and it is unlikely that he will be picked in the team just for his bowling. I think the next bowler in line, in this category after Ojha would be Iqbal Abdulla from Mumbai.

So, if I were to pick the 3 back-up bowlers for Harbhajan, Mishra and Ojha (the three currently in the team), I would go with R.Ashwin (right arm off break), Chawla (right arm leg break) and Abdulla (left arm orthodox). Just because we have 3 names doesn’t mean they are ready or anything. It means BCCI, NCA, the MAC academy, etc need to nurture them – put them in the ‘A’ teams, the Board President XIs, etc; offer them the guidance that they need and…just get them ready.

I know we keep talking about India’s spin reserves, but what about India’s fast bowling reserves – sure, there are a lot of people around, but if Zaheer has an injury in this series – India would struggle to find a good replacement.

Think about that.

-Mahesh-