Fully aware of the current Indian batting lineup’s issues regarding tackling spinners on rank turners, the team management will be well advised to ask for sports lanes against Australia in the upcoming four match Test series , one that bids turn from day three, according to former pundits and selectors. Once known as master players of spin, in recent years Indian teams have looked more at home against fast pace and steep bounce while struggling against slow bowling.
The only noteworthy innings in the past two to three years on a rank turner would be current skipper Rohit Sharma’s technically perfect 161 hit on a miserable Chepauk circuit where the other top order hitters had struggled.
Even an attack consisting of Mehidy Hasan Miraz, Shakib Al Hasan and Taijul Islam made life difficult for India in the second away test in Mirpur last December before Ravichandran Ashwin and Shreyas Iyer saved them.
“Playing spinners on a flat deck isn’t the problem. We must admit our hitters have struggled with high quality spin bowling on lanes that have turn offerings. I don’t know what kind of lanes are ahead, but rank turners can backfire,” former test spinner and well-known commentator Murali Kartik told PTI during an interaction.
Kartik explained that even at the national level, there aren’t too many players who are true masters against spinners.
“When I was playing league cricket in Chennai in my teens, as a 15-16 year old, I was bowling for Vikram Rathour, S Sharath, Senthilnathan, some of the best domestic batsmen of the time. Then I graduated to first-class cricket and I was bowling for Ajay Sharma and the late Raman Lamba, two doyens from Ranji Trophy. By the time I was playing international cricket, it gave me a lot of confidence,” said Kartik, one of the best left arm spinners of his generation.
When asked which of Kuldeep Yadav and Axar Patel should be the third spinner for India, Kartik said it would all depend on the track.
“If it’s a flatter deck then Kuldeep could be a good choice because he has the skills to take the pitch out of the equation. If it starts spinning from day two then Axar can come in. But if you tell me asks, always the third spinner will be underpowered because you expect your two main guys to do the job,” Kartik said.
Axar Patel will probably be the third spinner, according to former selectors
Recently, Sunil Joshi, who was part of the final selection panel, told ESPNCricinfo that if India wants to win the series, they need Kuldeep in the playing XI. It was five years ago against Australia in Dharamsala that Kuldeep made his test debut with a four wicket haul.
But injuries and team combinations meant he could only play seven more Tests with 34 wickets in his kitty.
Axar Patel, meanwhile, has played the same number of Tests in the last two years and has 47 wickets.
“For me there is no argument that Axar Patel should be India’s third spinner with (Ravichandran) Ashwin and (Ravindra) Jadeja. The form he has been in and on wickets on offer, Axar is an easy choice.” said former national selector Jatin Paranjape.
He also felt that India will not prepare “snake pits”, but he would expect the circuits to run from day two.
“I have full confidence in Rohit, Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat (Kohli) that they will treat Nathan Lyon admirably,” said Paranjape.
His former colleague Devang Gandhi agreed with Axar’s choice as the third spinner.
“Look, if you have a track that starts breaking right away, then Axar is a better choice than Kuldeep. Kuldeep will release the ball from the back of his hand and thus fly more,” said Gandhi.
“On circuits where the ball starts to spin square it will tend to get hit. Also when trying to bowl flatter it tends to go a bit shorter. In Axar’s case, on gymnasts, he hits the impeccable length.
“Also because he is a left-hander, he will bring variety to the lower middle class,” he added.
Play Rahul at number 5 and Bharath is your first keeper, says Prasad
Former chairman of selectors MSK Prasad believes that Shubman Gill’s newfound confidence should be used to the full and that he should hit in the opening position and not go down.
“I wouldn’t mind seeing KL Rahul number 5 in Tests. I don’t think Gill should be asked to come down. Rahul has played well in 50-over cricket and I see no reason why he shouldn’t the order,” said Prasad, a former stomper in India.
He feels that the choice between Axar and Kuldeep is a difficult one and cannot choose one without checking out the track a day before the race.
In the case of wicket-keeper, Prasad KS Bharat wants to see his Test debut. Prasad had played a part in the rise of Bharat.
“He (Bharat) has been groomed for this role over the past two years, even in the presence of Rishabh Pant. So it’s only fitting that Bharat gets the first chance to don the big gloves. He’s ready,” said Prasad.
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