Much to the delight of Indian cricket fans, the highly-anticipated four-match Test series against Australia kickstarted with a spin in the tale.
Just as Ishant Sharma, who went unsold at the recently held IPL auction, finished bowling the first over in which he conceded four runs, Indian skipper Virat Kohli did something completely unexpected. Instead of giving the ball to deadly pacer Umesh Yadav, Kohli surprised everyone by throwing it over to spin wizard Ravichandran Ashwin.
Ashwin went on to bowl 16 overs on the trot. Of the 94 overs bowled on the opening day of the Pune Test, the spinners went on to bowl 71 of them.
This is only the second time in the history of Indian Test cricket that a skipper has chosen a spinner to use the new ball on opening day. In doing so, Kohli was taking a leaf out of the book of former Indian skipper MAK Pataudi who was the first Indian captain to start a Test match with a spinners' combo. In the 1963-64 Test match against England at Kanpur, a young and vibrant MAK Pataudi shocked fans and critics when he put his most reliable spin bowlers ML Jaisimha and Salim Durani on the task.
Though the match went on to end in a draw, it will always be remembered for MAK Pataudi's maverick decision to open the bowling attack with spinners. During those days the cricket arena was dominated by pace bowlers. Out of the 500-odd Test matches India has played over decades, that was the only Test match in which they had ever opened with two spinners. Till today.
What fans were witness to today at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Pune gives an insight into how much the game has changed over the years.
Ever since the first Test match was played on 15 March 1877 between England and Australia at Melbourne Cricket Ground the cricketing world has been dominated by pacers who used to open the bowling attack in all four innings of a Test match. As time progressed, captains began experimented by bringing in spinners to open in the third and fourth innings of a Test.
India and England are the only two countries that have opened their attack with spinners on more than 10 different occasions during various innings of a Test match. But the reluctance to share the new ball with a spinner on the opening day of a Test match had persisted. Kohli's decision to go with Ravichandran Ashwin has seemingly broken the barriers for spinners all around the world.