Balwinder Singh: Ashwin is a match-winner

Balwinder Singh Sandhu, who's toured the West Indies in 1982-83, analyses India's bowling attack in the Caribbean.

Balwinder Singh Sandhu was impressed with India's performance in the first Test.   -  Special Arrangement

Balwinder Singh Sandhu played four Tests against the West Indies in the 1982-83 series at Kingston, Port-of-Spain, Georgetown and Bridgetown. Regarded as someone who had the skill to manipulate the seam, the Mumbai medium pacer played in eight Tests. Three days from turning 60, Sandhu dwells his mind on India’s bowling attack.

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It looks like the selectors have got the pace-spin combination right for the four Test series in the West Indies.

I thought they selected one pacer more than required. The team has Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shardul Thakur and Stuart Binny. Maybe they thought of giving Shardul exposure to international cricket. If that was the thinking, then they are on the right track because the team needs to have backup when the mainline bowlers get injured.

If you were in the selection panel, whom would you have not picked?

Since the team is not playing a one-day series, then Stuart would've found it difficult to come into the side. For a four-Test series I would have backed Shardul. He has bowled a lot in the Ranji Trophy and has proved his mettle for two years in the longer version of the game. I think Jasprit Bumrah currently fits into one-day and Twenty20 internationals.

 

The selectors were also on the spot picking three spinners of different variety; off break bowler, Ravichandran Ashwin, left arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja and righ arm leg spinner Amit Mishra.

They have picked three and Karn Sharma is not in the squad. The West Indians find it difficult to play conventional leg spinners and bowlers who have the skill to swing the ball. These two type of bowlers will take wickets against the West Indies. They like to play their shots and if you don’t allow them play their shots freely, they get bogged down. They lose their timing and make mistakes against bowlers who are very accurate.



I am surprised that Ishant Sharma, at this stage of his career, is not playing the role he’s supposed to play. He’s not into that groove yet. He’s a superb bowler when he gets into his rhythm. But after playing more than 20 or 30 Test matches, one has to be a frontline bowler.


The first Test ended in four days in Antigua. The seamers did well and Ashwin took seven for 83 in the fourth innings.

Ashiwn was getting good purchase and turning the ball. With his experience and the variety he has in his bowling, Ashwin is a match winner.

So it’s better to go with two spinners than four pacers and a spinner?

I think Virat (Kohli) is clear in his mind to go with five bowlers. And that’s paid off well. They must have seen the wicket and chosen to play two spinners. The pitches in the West Indies are not the same it used to be. We have played in Antigua. It used to be very flat. If wickets are not prepared well then the ball will turn on the fourth and fifth day. With Anil Kumble’s experience in the West Indies, it must have definitely helped Virat to take the final call about two spinners.

Which seamer impressed you the most in the first Test?

Shami of course in the first innings. I am surprised that Ishant Sharma, at this stage of his career, is not playing the role he’s supposed to play. He’s not into that groove yet. He’s a superb bowler when he gets into his rhythm. But after playing more than 20 or 30 Test matches, one has to be a frontline bowler. He has played close to 70 Test matches.

When Zaheer (Khan) was playing and when the captain wanted wickets, he threw the ball to him. That should be the role Ishant should be playing. If you are worried about pitching the ball in the right areas, as they call it these days, then something is wrong with the thinking. He should say hell with line and length and try to outthink the batsmen.



Bowling 25 overs in a first class match in India is easy, bowling 25 overs looks like 40 overs in a Test match because of the pressure and the stress the bowler goes through.


What about Umesh Yadav? He's erratic but he’s a genuine fast bowler.

I think he’s still struggling with his control. He too should be leading the attack now. There’s no doubt that he’s improved, he has a nice out swinging delivery, his release is good. If you are a paceman, you have to keep the batsmen guessing all the time. One should bowl quality balls, which is not happening now consistently. Shami is the pick of the lot; he can swing and also reverse the ball.

With four back to back matches, how will the players take care of their fitness?

They will get injured with the kind of load they are taking. They can get injured because of their action also. I am sure the trainers are working on strengthening the body and keep it injury free.

Bowling 25 overs in a first class match in India is easy, bowling 25 overs looks like 40 overs in a Test match because of the pressure and the stress the bowler goes through. They need to bowl at net sessions to strengthen their body, but only to the extent their body tells them to. Just listen to your body and bowl accordingly in the nets.

In these circumstances what can the likes of Shardul, Bhvneshwar and Stuart do?

They have to bowl in the nets. When you bowl day in and day out to quality batsmen, even in the nets, your confidence levels improve. You get the batsmen out in the nets and tell you that you belong to that level.

Do you think Ashwin and Mishra can prove to be an effective combination?

Both are good bowlers, but the leg spinner always needs the backing of the captain. Ashwin is a confident person.