In the shadow of spinners

The upcoming four Test series has been built up as a battle between the Indian spinners and England batsmen. The Indian selectors even made it a point to give the visitors minimal exposure to quality slow bowlers in the three warm-up games, with the aim to extend England's 28-year barren run of not winning a series in this part of the world. The onus will now be on the lead spinners — Ravichandran Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha — to do maximum damage like they did in the two Test series against New Zealand in August-September when they combined to pick up 31 wickets.

Yet, during India's spin-dominated thrashing of New Zealand, there was a period of play when the fast bowlers made a crucial difference. In New Zealand's second innings of the second Test in Bangalore, Umesh Yadav dismissed New Zealand openers Martin Guptill and Brendon McCullum in a span of five balls. The visitors had taken a slender 13-run lead and a strong opening stand would have not only put the spinners under pressure but made the task harder for India's batsmen who were to bat last.

In this scenario, Yadav's early strikes allowed the spinners to attack from the beginning of their spells. Fast bowlers' contribution can easily get overshadowed in India when spinners come into play but against England, who possess a batting line-up of greater quality compared to the Black Caps, early strikes from the fast bowlers will be a bonus. Yadav, who along with Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma form the core of the pace bowling unit, realises just that.

"If the wicket offers turn then the fast bowlers will have less of a role but if it doesn't, which can happen at times then we will have to deliver. It is important that the fast bowlers strike early as in India fast bowlers don't get longer spells. Spinners have played a big role in the past two series but fast bowlers have to work hard on slower tracks to make a contribution," Yadav told The Indian Express.

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