MS Dhoni right to single out James Anderson
By Scyld Berry | The Daily Telegraph | Published: 19th December 2012 11:17 AM |
Sir Len Hutton never toured Asia, but he might have had India in mind when he used to state with his Delphic air of wisdom: “There is a lot to be said in cricket - pause - for brute strength and ignorance.”
India, for the most part of their history, have lacked fast bowling, which is what Hutton was referring to. It is wonderful to have majestic batsmen and wristy spinners, but pace bowlers fuel a Test team.
This is why Mahendra Singh Dhoni was right to single out James Anderson as the biggest difference between the two countries. Once Anderson fired in Calcutta, India were never going to win. After a slow start he finished with as many wickets, 12, as all of India’s pace bowlers put together.
This current state of affairs, however, is India’s norm. The country has seldom had quick bowlers. Only six Indian pace bowlers have ever taken 100 Test wickets and one of them bowled spin some of the time, Karsan Ghavri. The other five are Kapil Dev, Zaheer Khan, Javagal Srinath, Ishant Sharma and Irfan Pathan.
What took India to No 1 in the world Test rankings a couple of years ago was not their truly great batting line-up. For almost the only time since independence they had a fine pace bowler at each end, taking early wickets so middle-order batsmen came in against spin with fielders crowding the bat.
This pair was Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma. While left-handed opening batsmen dominated world cricket - Matthew Hayden, Graeme Smith and Alastair Cook - Zaheer specialised in bending the ball in and knocking out poles or pinning them lbw. Of his 295 Test wickets, 44 per cent came against left-handers.
Although both played in this series, Zaheer took four wickets in three Tests, Ishant four in two. Ishant used to surprise right-handers as good as Ricky Ponting by jagging the ball back. Now, the reverse of Samson, he retains his hair but has lost that yard of pace.
Thus Dhoni had to bring his spinners on early, when no wickets had been taken, when Cook and Nick Compton were batting steadily for England. A much harder ball-game.
The second vulnerability in this Indian team was apparent before the series, more so than the passing of Zaheer and Ishant. Their batsmen were divided into two kinds. Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli were on the way up. Both were very promising but neither had played 10 Tests, so consistency could not be expected. Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar, meanwhile, were on the way down.
Sehwag still had a wonderful hundred off 90 balls in Ahmedabad left in him, but not Tendulkar. So these two could not be consistent either.
This left Yuvraj Singh, who had never been worth a regular spot, and Gautam Gambhir, who had been through two rocky years and exposed outside off stump on harder pitches abroad.
And after Ahmedabad, England played with such unity and purpose that India’s fundamental weaknesses were revealed. That is the beauty of a proper Test series. That is why a two-Test series between countries of equal calibre should be banned: wham, bam, and never any consequences, whether you win or lose.
In effect, after levelling the series in Mumbai, Cook’s team took a scalpel and opened up the body politic of Indian cricket to serious questioning.
Did Dhoni have the right to order pitches that turned from the start? The consensus was no: India’s captain was not supported by public or media.
Should India’s groundsmen do what the Indian captain tells them? Again the answer was no. They are employed by their state associations. Dhoni got his wish in Mumbai, not that it did him any good, but not in Calcutta or Nagpur.
Ultimately in Indian cricket there is no accountability provided the accounts look good. India, with far more cricketers than any other country, has not produced one umpire on the elite international panel since Srini Venkataraghavan retired. What sort of training system does the board have?
India does not have one quick pitch in the whole country - the main reason why their total of pace bowlers with 100 Test wickets numbers 5½. What sort of investment is that?
And the status quo will remain so long as India’s board president and captain - N Srininvasan, owner of Chennai Super Kings, and Dhoni, the CSK captain - get along cosily. India’s selectors wanted Dhoni removed. No chance.
India’s powers-that-be can argue, after all, that the normal state of affairs applies now - which is true. It just ignores the millions of banked dollars which could be spent to greater effect.