Having suffered total humiliation in England on seaming tracks, Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni is determined to unleash the spin magicians on the visitors, that too spin from the first day.
His logic is simple, play to your strengths at home. The Ahmedabad wicket, where India romped home by nine wickets, was only the first of four doses even though the centre square was not to Dhoni’s liking. The skipper felt the wicket became slow and the bowlers had to toil hard to bowl out England twice.
The second Test, starting from Friday at Wankhede Stadium, promises to be a saga of twists and turns if one believes that the wicket will have more bounce and turn. But the last time when India played West Indies to a thrilling draw here, the wicket came in for some criticism for being too slow and not conducive to spin.
Incidentally, it was not all about spinners that spelt doom for England, it was the reverse swing of Zaheer Khan and Umesh Yadav that hastened the visitors’ end at Ahmedabad.
Whereas the English bowling unit of James Anderson, Stuart Board and Tim Bresnan did not get the reverse swing going, the Indian bowlers made the ball curve in to trouble the visitors.
But India suffered a blow before the start of the Test with the nippy Umesh being doubtful with back trouble. Yadav had bowled with good pace even on the slow wicket of Ahmedabad.
All eyes should be on Virender Sehwag, for this will be his 100th Test. He will be the ninth Indian to do so. More importantly, Sehwag is back with a bang.
Cheteshwar Pujara, the new batting hero, displayed a cool temperament and skills to remain unbeaten in both the innings with scores of 206 and 41. Yuvraj Singh also made a fairytale comeback to Tests. The left-hander made a useful contribution with the willow.
However, the lean form of Gautam Gambhir and Sachin Tendulkar continues to be a bother. It has been a while since both of them have been among the runs. This being the home ground of Tendulkar, he will be itching to make a big score.
Ishant Sharma in all probability will be back to pair with Zaheer in the absence of Umesh. It is yet another opportunity for Ishant to re-establish his career in Tests. But it is the spin duo of R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha, who have mesmerised the English team. The two have formed a potent spin partnership on Indian wickets. It was Ojha, who looked purposeful rather than Ashwin with his nine-wicket haul. Ashwin has sweet memories here when he nearly won the match for India with the bat in the drawn game against Windies last November. Dhoni clearly said Harbhajan Singh has to wait as it is better to play two pacers and two spinners.
England made the mistake of omitting left arm spinner Monty Panesar at Ahmedabad. Graeme Swann was all guile in the first Test and the off spinner needs good support from the other end and Panesar looks good to fit the bill. The English pace attack could also learn the intricacies of reverse swing in this part of the world. However, there could be some swing here to the liking of Anderson.
Skipper Alastair Cook showed a disciplined approach in the second innings at Ahmedabad. Matt Prior too batted nicely. It is up to the rest of the batsmen to follow in Cook’s footsteps. Of course, there is the middle order dilemma of playing left-hander Eoin Morgan or Jonny Bairstow in place of Ian Bell, who flew back home to see his newborn child.