CHENNAI: The microscope has zoomed in on England's incompetence against spin bowling in each of the last five innings.
Since losing Joe Root to Jasprit Bumrah in the second innings of the first Test, the visitors have lost 41 wickets out of 45 wickets they have lost to the spinners.
Sure, surfaces have had bite, turn and zip but coming to the sub-continent and complaining about spinning tracks is a bit like telling water is wet. But lost in all that noise is the one continuing subplot in this Indian team: a curious weakness against seemingly inferior visiting spinners.
Cast your mind back to the 2015 South Africa series in India when Simon Harmer (10 wickets at an average of 25.4), Dean Elgar (five wickets at 27.2) and Dean Piedt (four wickets at 42.50) got amongst the wickets. That continued against Australia in 2017 when Steve O'Keefe (19 at 23.26) ran rings in multiple innings which proved this Indian line-up aren't all that uncomfortable on turners.
And that's exactly what Jack Leach (16 at 26.75), Moeen Ali (eight at 28.25), Joe Root (six at 14.16) and Dom Bess (five at 25.20) have shown. The one message is this — on tracks having extra juice in it for the tweakers in the recent past, Indian batsmen haven't exactly covered themselves in glory either.
Picture this: While the Indian spinners have picked up a wicket once every 19 runs or so, the English spinners have taken a wicket once every 25 runs. If not for two Rohit Sharma classics — only batsman to cross double figures four times across both sides in the last two Tests — the second and third Tests could have gone horribly wrong.
This was the background behind one of the questions that was posed to Ajinkya Rahane at a press conference on Tuesday.
"There is about 4mm covering of grass in Ranji matches. Considering India have focused on building teams to master overseas conditions. Are you guys less prepared to play on turning tracks than usual?"
While the vice-captain didn't agree with the assessment that this side are weak against spin-bowling, he did tacitly acknowledge that it's been a while and you need to constantly keep practicing batting against spin bowling.
"When we practiced (before and during the series), we decided that we will focus on spin bowling," he said. "The last Test we played in India was in 2018-19 against South Africa (it was against Bangladesh).
It has been a while, you need practice to play spin bowling." From an Indian perspective, one would hope for all that practice to bear fruit because the strip for the fourth Test is going to be similar in nature.
"The wicket will be similar to the third Test and the second Test to some degree," he said. "Pink ball made a difference in that it came on a bit quicker. That was an adjustment we had to make."
On pitches where exaggerated turn is the rule, the 32-year-old also spoke about the importance of not 'worrying about spin'. "It's important to play the line. With the pink ball, it was very different. We have hardly played with it. We need to play more to get a hang of it. Play the line and don't worry about spin."
One of the Indian batsman who will be advised to not worry spin is Rahane himself. He has been picked by all of the three frontline visiting spinners at least once this series (twice by Ali and one apiece by Leach and Bess). But he isn't worried.
In fact, he was expecting a question on his 'problems against spin'. "I was expecting this question," he said. "You need to check your facts. My contribution to the team... whenever the team needed runs, the runs are there. I am a team man. When the team needs me to score in a situation, I have always done that.
As a player, I’m always looking to learn and grow." On a similar wicket, there is another chance for Rahane and his teammates to put a stop to this worrying trend.