Turn for the worse at Wankhede
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And that, to some extent, explains the Wankhede fiasco, one that saw the Mumbai groundstaff preparing a pitch that ended up suiting the visitors more than the hosts. To be fair to Dhoni, he had his reasons for asking for a rank turner. As the English batsmen, barring Alistair Cook and Matt Prior, succumbed at the "slow and low" Motera, the Indian strategy of starving England for spin seemed to have worked. No spinners in tour games meant Ojha and Ashwin were too hard to handle for the English. Then, Dhoni had plan number 2. With England on the ropes, Dhoni was uncoiling the knock-out punch.
So for the second Test, Dhoni attempted the old trick and ordered the good old carpet to be brought out. It was the one on which the English men had so famously slipped in 1993. Back then, the spinners Anil Kumble, Venkatapathy Raju and Rajesh Chauhan had helped India register a 3-0 win over the Graham Gooch-led side. This time, Dhoni anticipated the same from Ojha, Ashwin and Harbhajan.
With scores levelled at 1-1, Dhoni would be worried but wiser. The bounce and turn had worked for Kumble and Co., but not for the present day spin-trio. Besides, the batting line-up didn't have many like Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman, who could handle the turning ball on a tricky track in the second innings. In the Tests ahead, Dhoni will have to figure out a new template for his talented bowlers and promising batsmen. And for that he needs to be at the helm, despite the losses, and the likes of Ojha and Ashwin in the squad. Calm and continuity can see India emerge from the crisis that usually occurs during periods of transition.
But Team India needs to be pro-active and can't afford to just wait and watch, hoping for the tide to turn. For starters, the 20-somethings in the team need to be guided by old hands and masters of the game. Coach Duncan Fletcher and seniors like Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag can be big help for the likes of Pujara, Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane, but what about the spinners? India's bowling coach, Joe Dawes, happens to be Australian, with little international experience. He played most of his cricket in England and Australia. Can Ojha and Ashwin pick his mind for inputs on spinning the ball on Indian dust bowls? Probably not.