Saturday, 11 October 2014

India's spin punch running high and dry?

NEW DELHI: One worrying aspect for India in Kochi was the way their spinners were treated by Marlon Samuels and Co.

Having rested R Ashwin, India went in with the experienced Amit Mishra, who has played only two ODIs at home in the last three years. The move didn't seem to pay off as the spinners went for 144 runs from their 22 overs (Raina chipped in with two overs) and took only two wickets. Mishra went for 72 from his 10.

As a one-off, the performance doesn't mean much, as Shikhar Dhawan suggested. "Because of one game, you can't be worried," he said, "We can't be very concerned if spinners give away runs in one match. Maybe in the next match they will get four or five wickets."

A deeper look, however, reveals that at home, India's problems in the spin department have been festering for long. Alarmingly, India's spinners have produced only one four-wicket ODI haul at home in the last three years, courtesy Ravindra Jadeja's 4/33 against England at the Eden in October 2011.

A look at eight Indian spinners during this period reveals the presence of five part-timers, who are usually expected to play a more containing role. India have also struggled in the third-spinner department whenever Jadeja and Ashwin have fallen short or been absent.

India's traditional reliance on spin, however, has barely diminished during this period: in all, spinners have bowled 656.2 overs in the last three years at home - almost equal to the 669 bowled by the pacers.

They have also picked up 52.23% of the wickets compared to 47.77% by the pacers, a divide which should have been much wider given spin is India's mainstay at home, according to off-spin legend Erapalli Prasanna.

"Spinners should be picking up much more wickets in ODIs than they are. I wouldn't say it's because of T20 or because spinners play a more containing role," he told TOI.

"It's purely because visiting batsmen are playing the current crop of Indian spinners better," he added.

"Our spinners sometimes lack guile, intelligence and variation. In this age of short boundaries and bigger bats, batsmen are adept at stealing runs. It's not that they are not doing their homework or not studying batsmen. They simply lack the imagination a quality spinner should have.

But the main reason is that visiting batsmen are putting more pressure on them," Prasanna said.

Prasanna's words find credence in Marlon Samuels' comments after the Kochi ODI, when the West Indies batsman said he worked hard to ensure he handled India's spinners well, and was watchful against Mishra's deceptive googlies while attacking the bad balls.

Maybe there's some food for thought for the Indian team management here.

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