Two specialist spinners will boost India's chances further
by Partab Ramchand

Player:W Jaffer, DN Sardesai, SM Gavaskar, VVS Laxman, Harbhajan Singh
Event:India in West Indies 2006

DateLine: 8th June 2006


A performance typical of the Indian cricket team. That is how one would sum up the events of the action-packed pulsating draw in the first Test at St John’s. When they are put down as favourites they flounder. And just when one thought that the morale was low, that there were problems aplenty and it was only a matter of time before the wheels came off the tourists pulled off a performance that must rank as one of their best ever in the Caribbean over 39 Tests spanning nine visits.


To come within one wicket of winning after being at the receiving end of the match midway through and within days of losing the one-day series by the emphatic margin of four matches to one was one hell of a show. Yes, there are loopholes that have to be plugged – we will come to them later – but for the moment let us salute the Indian team for a splendid all round effort. It was a display full of spunk and they exposed the weak links in the West Indian line up. Warning signal number one has already been hoisted for the hosts.


The much-vaunted batting line up did not disappoint and none shone more than the least glamorous of the ``super seven’’. In scoring only the fourth double hundred by an Indian in a Test in the West Indies Wasim Jaffer not only joined the illustrious trio of Dilip Sardesai, Sunil Gavaskar and Navjot Sidhu but also made his position at the top of the order more than secure. A product of the Mumbai school of batting which encourages tall scores, prolonged occupation of the crease and technical efficiency Jaffer has been in and out of the team since he made his debut against South Africa six years ago. That surely is a thing of the past now and displaying an excellent temperament and a wide array of strokes Jaffer is now an integral part of the lustrous line up and deservedly so.


Rahul Dravid came up with two timely knocks very much in keeping with his exalted status while Virender Sehwag has reached the stage where it is imperative that his aggression has to be tempered with a bit of caution. There is no use saying ``oh, but that’s the way he plays.’’ He should clearly be told that breezy 30s and 40s will not do especially as he has it in him to run up big scores, something underlined by his Test record. International batsmen have known to adjust their approach to the needs of the side and for the immensely gifted and courageous batsman it is surely only a matter of some minor adjustments. One is sure that the level headed vice captain is aware of his responsibilities and he will make an honest self-appraisal. Besides raising his average the big scores will benefit the team no end. For inspiration he need look no further than Chris Gayle’s second innings effort.


The careless shot played by VVS Laxman in the second innings will no doubt haunt him and his many admirers for a long time. There cannot be any explanation for that kind of stroke however much one tries to fathom the reasons behind the sudden rush of blood. It was needless, exasperating and a horrendous waste of a wicket. Laxman is a batsman cast in the classical mould with a wealth of experience and one can only hope that it was an aberration. More perhaps was expected from Yuvraj and Kaif but there is little doubt that big scores from their bats will be notched up in the remaining Tests. And after none too impressive showing in the ODIs it was good to see MS Dhoni back at his buccaneering best.


One would not like to be too critical of the bowlers especially as they fell just short of bowling India to victory. Unfortunately there are problems here. I said earlier that VRV Singh is lucky to be a member of the touring squad and even luckier that he was in the playing eleven at St John’s. Nothing that he did in the Test has made me alter my opinion. Anyway one is sure he will not be around for the next Test with the return of Ifran Pathan a certainty. Sreesanth showed speed and spirit as is his wont but he does get carried away by his youthful exuberance and the result was that he sprayed the ball over the place in the first innings. His dismissal of Brian Lara for zero however will no doubt boost his confidence and he remains an important cog in the pace bowling wheel.


The non-inclusion of Harbhajan Singh was shocking to say the least and this was underlined by the fact that Sehwag took four wickets. It goes without saying that Harbhajan would have been more effective and his inclusion could well have led to the Indians winning the game what with only one wicket separating them and victory. I have repeatedly advocated the policy of playing two specialist spinners in the West Indies given the fact that history is firmly behind this theory. Moreover Anil Kumble and Harbhajan bowl well in tandem and the Indians will have an even better chance of victory with a stronger spin attack.

(Article: Copyright © 2006 CricketArchive)


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