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EAS Prasanna Column

I believe that two off spinners should play at Chennai
EAS Prasanna - 16 March 2001

I have never watched a match as intensely fought out as the second Test at Kolkata. The Indians played exceedingly well over the last three days to register an incredible win. It was a fantastic comeback by them, primarily because Laxman held the fort for ten hours. What a tremendous feat of concentration! He showed that his knock at the SCG was not a fluke. His innings at the Eden Gardens showed a lot of courage and character. With Rahul Dravid also recovering some form and confidence, I think the contest between bat and ball is going to be very keen in Chennai.

The Indians went into the Kolkata Test hoping for a reversal of fortunes but their first disappointment was losing the toss. It looked to me that the Indian camp had planned on the presumption that they would be batting first irrespective of the toss. But Steve Waugh decided to bat first and put up runs on the board so that they could gain the psychological advantage and also hopefully bat India out of the series in the process.

The Indians once more chose a wrong combination of bowlers. Time and again it has been seen that the Indian pace attack looks wanting after the first 15 overs are bowled. The choice of Venkatesh Prasad was unimaginative; instead Sarandeep Singh should have played. Harbhajan Singh bowled very well for his hat trick. I was also impressed by the way he foxed Mark Waugh and Ricky Ponting. Both deliveries had the ideal trajectory and length. The length forced the batsmen to make tentative moves forward and change to the backfoot only to get deceived. Well bowled Harbhajan!

When Steve Waugh had just come in, Ganguly made the mistake of allowing him easy singles. Mind you, Waugh was not on 80 or 90. He had only 10 or 15 runs on the board. Secondly Harbhajan, in his first flush of enthusiasm after getting the hat trick, was too excited and instead of inviting the tail to have a hit, started pushing the ball a little faster to trap them at forward short leg. With these two basic mistakes, the Aussies recovered fairly and squarely and their total of 445 runs was a psychological advantage which they immediately sought to drive home.

On the last day, I thought the Indians should have declared at their overnight score. It is just a myth that Australia could score 300 odd runs to win. I knew that the way our spinners operated in the first innings, we were better equipped to use the wicket. In the second innings, Harbhajan was helped by the additional pressure on the Australians to save the match which made them a bit defensive. The only mistake he made was to push the ball a little faster to Hayden instead of inviting him to come out and hit. Had Harbhajan done that, he would have got his man earlier. Also, one must admit that Tendulkar is an ideal bowler to come on in short spells. He puts a lot more intelligence into his bowling than most of the regular bowlers

I would attribute the Australians losing to underestimating the Indians a little and also to Shane Warne's ineffectiveness. If we really look at Warne's bowling, he hardly posed any problems to the Indian batsmen. Warne made the mistake of bowling too short. There was no googly, no top spinner, no variation in his bowling. It is quite evident that at Chennai they have to go in with Miller as well. No doubt Gillespie and McGrath bowled well, they were a bit unlucky but that is part of the game. I think on the second day when Laxman added 35-40 runs with Raju and Prasad, it was a broad hint to Waugh and he should have deliberated long and hard whether enforcing the follow on was a wise decision.

The next Test will be more evenly contested. I still believe that two off spinners should play. They can rotate among themselves along with a left arm spinner. My bet would have been for Joshi since it is the final Test of the series and he's had a lot of experience. But Nilesh Kulkarni is doing pretty well too. Kulkarni spent a couple of days with me last year and if he gets selected I only hope he is among the wickets.

© CricInfo

Other Articles by EAS Prasanna:

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Players/Umpires Steve Waugh, Sachin Tendulkar, Glenn McGrath, Sadagoppan Ramesh, Shiv Sunder Das, Shane Warne, Sourav Ganguly, Ajit Agarkar, Narendra Hirwani, Harbhajan Singh, Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden, Rahul Sanghvi.
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