England get runs but no practice against spinners

Subhash Rajta

Ahmedabad, Nov. 9 -- For a long period, 50 overs to be precise, it appeared Amit Mishra's inclusion in the Haryana line-up was just ornamental. All this while the leg-spinner and skipper had looked content fielding, shining the ball for his bowlers, and, perhaps, hoping they would pick up the wickets.

And, just when that notion began to acquire a realistic hue, the diminutive spinner finally walked up to the stumps, with the game closer to tea than lunch, and began his much-anticipated spell.

He went on to bowl eight overs on the trot, picking up two wickets -- opener Nick Compton and Jonathan Trott. He sent down three more overs towards the end of play to take the tally to 11 out of the 90 bowled on the first day of the four-day tie on Thursday. Quite clearly, Haryana chose not to make optimum use of their best bowler. The man who was part of the India set-up not too long ago, simply under-bowled himself. And it would be naive to think it was merely by chance.

Piling runs

It could be argued that the conditions weren't conducive for the leg-spinner on the first day on a rather green track at the 'B' ground of the Sardar Patel Stadium, venue for the first Test starting on November 15. But when the opposing batsmen are blasting the other bowlers to such an extent to pile up 408/3 in a day's play, the team's best bowler would be expected to bowl much more than what Mishra did.

His decision to stay off the attack was all the more strange because a bagful of wickets could have even got him in the mix for selection for the last two Tests, especially with no other leg-spinner good enough to stake his claim. And he seemed aware of it, having asserted on the eve of the game that he would try and pick up as many wickets as possible. But, hoping to pick up wickets without bowling enough is like wanting to win a Diwali bumper without buying a ticket. Maybe, he sacrificed his chances, however slim, for the perceived larger good of the Indian team.

Wrong tactics

There is, however, a flipside to not fielding or bowling the best bowlers of the side. The England batsmen gorged on the ordinary Haryana attack and helped themselves to good scores that will help them head into the first Test high on confidence.

Skipper Alastair Cook scored 97, while Kevin Pietersen hammered a swashbuckling 110 before opting to retire. More significantly, opener Nick Compton, Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell, who have looked a bit unsure, also had a good hit. Bell was very pleased. "It was nice to spend time in the middle. All of us had a good practice."

So, have India scored a self-goal by fielding an ordinary attack?

India to assemble today for practice

The Indian cricket squad will have a three-day practice session at the Brabourne Stadium here from Friday ahead of the opening match of the four-Test series against England commencing in Ahmedabad on November 15.

The team is set to practice in the afternoon and will have full day sessions on the following two days, cricket board sources said.

Coach Duncan Fletcher is expected to join the side after flying in from South Africa on Thursday night.

The team is set to fly to Ahmedabad on November 12 morning. The focus of the brief camp will also be on India's spin tactics, which is expected to be the main weapon against the visitors.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.