Spin to Pin South Africa

India don’t have too many world-class pace options & onus will be on slow bowlers to rein in opposition.

Published: 03rd November 2015 04:50 AM  |   Last Updated: 03rd November 2015 04:56 AM   |  A+A-

CHENNAI:Virat Kohli’s nascent career as Test captain got a morale-boosting win in Sri Lanka alright, a stern test of leadership awaits him in the South Africa series. Apart from being No 1 in Test rankings, the visitors have a 5-5 record in India, including 1-1 draws on the last two trips.

After handling what their fast men will hurl, Indians also face a challenge as far as taking wickets is concerned, given the grit and grace of AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla or Faf du Plessis. Kohli has shown a fondness for pace, but considering the failure in ODIs and suspension on Ishant Sharma for the first Test, spin might emerge the dominant weapon. If he sticks to five bowlers, the batting ability of R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and even Amit Mishra can encourage him to go for a 2-3 combination.

Ashwin’s recovery from side strain thus becomes crucial before the first Test starting on November 5 in Mohali, where the pitch will have a decisive word in finalising the XI. It has to be really lively for Kohli to pick Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron, which in effect might mean advantage Steyn & Co.

“Considering the team management’s urge for spin in ODIs and the form of Ashwin, Jadeja and Mishra, three spinners might be the way ahead if you’re playing five bowlers,” said former wicketkeeper Deep Dasgupta, who will be in the commentary box. “Ashwin is the best off-spinner in the world at the moment and his fitness is key. But we shouldn’t forget that to take 20 wickets, we need contributions from fast bowlers.” Worryingly for India, the pace wing looks ordinary in the absence of Ishant, the only one of the lot who when fit, has produced some telling spells. Bhuvneshwar’s role in Tests in India has often been restricted to bowling one spell in the first innings. Umesh and Aaron too have battled fitness issues and hardly played at home.

“There’s nothing wrong with the fast bowlers as far as potential is concerned. But they lack discipline to be consistent. Pace without control at this level doesn’t mean much because top teams are used to it. Our fast bowlers must do better than two good balls per over and learn how to pitch it up. Two-three wickets with the new ball can put any team under pressure. Unfortunately, that’s hard to expect without Ishant and (Mohammad) Shami,” felt former India coach and all-rounder Madan Lal.


With changes in this backdrop unlikely, emphasis on spin could also become a sensible bet for the moment. Not only because that’s what India historically fall back on in crunch situations, anything else might result in playing to the strength of the opposition.

“Agreed that Jadeja has taken wickets recently on turners, but consistency with bat and ball makes him the right choice. Not much of a threat on flat tracks because of lack of variations, his accuracy can ask questions if the pitch offers help. And apart from bowling, Mishra’s batting in Sri Lanka showed his determination to make the most of this chance,” added Dasgupta.

Regarded as India’s only venue with bounce akin to overseas strips when it hosted its first Test in 1995, Mohali has lost that reputation. The last Test there in 2013 saw MS Dhoni use Ashwin, Jadeja and Pragyan Ojha against Australia. Going by early indications, to see his predecessor opt for the same ploy in his first home Test as captain wouldn’t be a surprise.

Fast Bowlers


Varun Aaron

M 7, W 16, Avg 54.68, Best 3/97

Umesh Yadav

M 15, W 48, Avg 38.56, Best 5/93, 5W 1


M 12, W 29, Avg 35.00, Best 6/103, 5W 2

At Home

Varun Aaron

M 1, W 3, Avg 43.00, Best 3/106

Umesh Yadav

M 5, W 18, Avg 27.16, Best 4/80


M 6, W 9, Avg 37.88, Best 3/60

(None of these three have played Tests against South Africa)


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