A pointless omission
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After their wide-eyed, leaden-footed struggles against Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman and Rangana Herath last season, England resolved to prepare like never before for the spin trial that awaited them in India. They decided to play three warm-up games ahead of the Tests. But quantity doesn't guarantee anything. England won't be facing particularly daunting opponents in their second and third tour games, with the top state sides engaged in Ranji action. Now, they have discovered that India 'A' — their first opponents — will not feature a single frontline spinner.
Last year, India only played one warm-up game before the first Test in England, and never quite got to grips with the conditions. The selectors seem to have taken a strange lesson from that 0-4 drubbing. "We'll make sure you guys aren't well prepared either" is what they seem to be saying. This wasn't how England were thinking last year. Ahead of that solitary warm-up game at Taunton, England skipper Andrew Strauss, who was playing for Somerset as a guest player, told his teammates to go hard at the tourists.
Nick Compton revealed that Strauss told them to keep Zaheer Khan on the field for 90 overs and get Sachin Tendulkar out cheaply. Having declared on 425, Somerset bowled the Indians out for 224. In the past, Indian teams have dealt touring sides similar psychological blows. In 1998, Sachin Tendulkar turned out for Mumbai and smashed a double century. Mumbai won by 10 wickets. Shane Warne had figures of 16-1-111-0.
The decision to go without spinners has another possible repercussion. If R Ashwin or Pragyan Ojha were to get injured, the selectors would have to go with gut feel, or Ranji performances, to determine the replacement. Had Harbhajan Singh and Amit Mishra, for example, played in the India 'A' side, they could have had a better way to judge.