For ages, this theory of Indians being the best players of spin has been floated around. And of course, there has been a lot of merit to the same, since India have embarrassed great spinners like Shane Warne over the years, and their batsmen stood up on dusty bowls and performed even as the opponents have crumbled under pressure. However, there have been numerous instances recently, where India’s bowlers have failed to exploit spin-friendly conditions, even as the opposition slow bowlers have successfully done so, Adelaide being the latest. This begs the question, are Indians no longer good players of spin?
The fact that Adelaide Oval is not the first instance in recent years where a spin bowler has bowled his side to victory over India is a highly worrying aspect of India’s play. While the 12 wickets Nathan Lyon picked up at Adelaide will surely help the Aussie offie resurrect his career, it will pose further worrying queries in front of the Indian batsmen. And unless they answer the same in the coming Tests, another disaster seems in store for the Indians. The prospect of coming back will become even tougher for India since other surfaces will offer better assistance to the faster men as well.
Coming back to India’s woes against spin, they suffered due to the same reason in England as well, and rather embarrassingly at that. Moeen Ali wasn’t being seen as a threat by many in the series, and some critics were actually surprised to see him as the team’s lead spinner, even terming him only a good part-timer. But, his skills were more than enough to trouble India, and make a match-winning impact on the series. Ali claimed three wickets in the second innings of the drawn Test at Trent Bridge.
Ali’s real affect was felt in the third Test at Southampton. India were on top having beaten the hosts at Lord’s, but Ali claimed 6 for 67 with his innocuous looking bowling style to bowl the Englishmen to a memorable victory, and level the series 1-1 for them. He again troubled the Indians at Old Trafford, Manchester, claiming 4 for 39 in India’s second innings to hand the struggling visitors defeat by an innings. Even when Ali was not claiming wickets in a heap, he was breaking key partnerships, which means India could never totally ignore his threat.
Even when England came to India in 2012, it were their spinners who outshone the hosts. Left-arm spinner Monty Panesar grabbed 10 wickets in his comeback Test, and played a major role as England beat India in India after well over two decades. A couple of years before, an Indian side featuring giants of batting like Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid succumbed to the guile of Ajantha Mendis in a forgettable Test series in Sri Lanka. Even Muttiah Muralitharan has tasted a lot of success against the Indians in Tests. Is it time then to revisit the ‘best players of spin’ tag given to India?
--By A Cricket Analyst