India refrains from preparing overly spinner-friendly pitches

This time, the Indian think-tank is in no mood to let England bounce back in the series by preparing a surface where toss could become a serious factor and the England spinners turn the tables on the Indians.

Indian openers Murali Vijay and K. L. Rahul during a practice session in Mohali on Thursday. The third Test begins on Saturday.   -  PTI

Sometimes lessons from the past, if remembered in time, serve as a great saviour in the future. Having taken a 1-0 lead over England, much like it did four years ago, India is keen not to repeat the mistakes committed during the lost four-Test series at home.

So far in the two Tests, much against the expectations, India has refrained from testing England on turning tracks. On the contrary, the surface in Rajkot served England better as it won the toss and scored in excess of 500 runs, spending time in the middle to get a good look at the Indian spinners.

Even in Vizag, the ball did not turn alarmingly, but the variable bounce of the surface caught England on the wrong foot. After all, 10 leg-before decisions clearly reflected the doubts in the minds of the England batsmen whether to negotiate the turn or the low bounce. Moreover, the pace of Mohammad Shami and Umesh Yadav struck useful blows and kept up the pressure.

But looking ahead, if India is still not thinking of an overly spin-friendly surface in the series, it is only because what happened four years ago is still fresh in the minds.

After India won the first Test in Ahmedabad by nine wickets, England hit right back in Mumbai with a crushing 10-wicket triumph. In the second innings of that match, the spin-duo of Monty Panesar (six wickets) and Graeme Swann (four) skittled India out for 142. England won in Kolkata by seven wickets and easily drew the final Test in Nagpur to win 2-1.

This time, the Indian think-tank is in no mood to let England bounce back in the series by preparing a surface where toss could become a serious factor and the England spinners turn the tables on the Indians.

Of course, there is no Panesar or Swann in this squad but in the India dressing room, there is a quiet respect for the off-spin of Moeen Ali, left-arm spin of Zafar Ansari and the leg-spin of Adil Rashid. Also, the presence of Pakistani spin-coach Saqlain Mushtaq — a frequent tormentor of India during his playing days — in the England dressing room has not been undermined by India.

Though these are not exactly known to ‘turn’ the match on its head, there is a feeling that this Indian batting line-up could crumble to spin. After all, there have been several instances where Indians have been caught in the spin-web at home.

It is this doubt that has kept India away from the exact course it followed against England at home in 1993. Coach Ajit Wadekar chose to repeat the bitter spin-dose, once administered by the trio of B. S. Chandrashekhar, S. Venkataraghvan and Bishan Singh Bedi during that epic away series-victory in 1971.

In 1993, India blanked England 3-0 with spinners Anil Kumble, Rajesh Chauhan and Venkatapathi Raju striking almost at will on spin-friendly tracks.

Athough Kumble, as the chief coach, is still in a position to influence the decision on the playing surface, he has never talked about killing the opposition with spin alone.

Therefore, it is quite clear that this Indian team will be pleased to win the series, without pushing too hard for spin-friendly surfaces.

The surface in Mohali has long ceased to be the pace-friendly pitch, testing the batsmen further in the nippy conditions of winter months. Curator Daljit Singh, despite his vast experience, was reluctant to speak about the surface on Thursday. He chose to play it safe with this stereotype response, “It is a typical Test pitch, with something for the batsmen and something for the bowlers. It depends on the capabilities of the players, how they perform in the given conditions.”

Even without the help of the curator, the nature of the present pitch will, obviously, be known once the action begins on Saturday. For now, it is better to go by what Kumble maintains. “I am someone who certainly does not give too much importance to conditions. We need to play good cricket.”

>Also Read: Kumble rubbishes ball-tampering allegations against Kohli