“For Bangalore, we are caught between the devil and the deep sea,” India spin legend Erapalli Prasanna declared on Monday, observing that the Indian team management will be in a dilemma over the wicket for the second Test after their ploy to go for a rank turner in the first game spectacularly backfired.
“I don’t expect a turner at Bangalore,” the former off-spinner predicted ahead of the match to be staged in his hometown from Saturday.
The debate about the rank turner dished out for the Pune Test has raged on after Australia cricket team turned the tables on India, handed them a 333-run defeat inside three days.
INDIA CRUMBLED AGAINST SPIN
Australia left-arm spinner captured 12 for 70, the finest haul by a visiting spinner. He just missed out on the record for a visiting bowler in India, England all-rounder Ian Botham’s 13-wicket Test haul in 1979-80.
The 32-year-old O’Keefe took identical hauls of 6/35 in either innings, after sending India tumbling to 105 all in the first innings, the hosts losing an astonishing seven wickets for 11 runs. India were routed for 107 in the second innings.
LOWEST TOTAL IN A HOME TEST
India lasted a mere 444 deliveries across the two innings, the fewest faced by them in two completed innings. The combined total of 212 was India’s lowest in a home Test where they had lost all 20 wickets.
Australia’s Steve O’Keefe speaks about his preparations for the tour of India and the legends he spoke to ahead of the challenging series pic.twitter.com/F5XEYiQbvs— cricket.com.au (@CricketAus) February 6, 2017
Prasanna, who was a member of India’s famed spin quartet in the 1960s and 1970s and considered an astute mind in the game, said: “If I was the curator, I will prepare a good wicket, which will turn from fourth and fifth day.”
India were on a roll in the long home season till they were jolted by Australia last week. Prasanna, who was famous for mesmerising batsmen with his flight and a bag of tricks, observed that India still didn’t have the right template for wickets which suited their strengths.
INDIA’S PITCH CRAFT POOR
For him, the Test series wins against South Africa, New Zealand and England were not exactly a pointer to whether India had got their pitch preparations right. The South Africa batting had simply crumbled, offering no challenge on turning wickets similar to Pune laid out during the series in late 2015.
Steve O’Keefe’s super spell in Pune brought back a few memories for coach @darren_lehmann… #INDvAUS pic.twitter.com/YaHBv3lQ6i— cricket.com.au Video (@CricketVideo) February 26, 2017
“Against New Zealand, we succeeded because they crumbled in a heap. We batted well versus England, but it was bad captaincy by them despite getting scores of 400 plus.
But, the Australians will kill you if you allow them to get 400, (they are) not like England. The England captaincy was really poor.”
ISSUE WITH INDIAN CURATORS
Things have changed in Indian cricket in the sense that local curators have limited say in the preparation of the wicket. According to the new BCCI diktat, the local expert works under the supervision of the zonal and chief curators, who fly down a few days ahead of the Test.
The surprise factor in the Pune was the Indian spin trio of R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Jayant Yadav being outperformed by the Australian duo of Steve O’Keefe and off-spinner Nathan Lyon.
SEARCHING FOR LEG BEFORE
So far, the Indian spinners had been outstanding, getting their plans spot on. But at Pune, Prasanna was put off by Ashwin & Co’s line of attack.
Since the Decision Review System (DRS) was introduced, leg before has come more into play, but Prasanna said the bowlers cannot change their line of attack because of that. For him, a genuine wicket is bowled or caught behind while leg before is incidental.
“The Indian spinners were trying to take leg before wickets all the while (at Pune). In recent times, a lot of lbw decisions have been given on the front foot, (hence) they were looking to attack the pads, more than going for the edge of the bat and caught behind.”
Giving a basic example, he said the lbw was just like in batting where “reverse sweep is just an incidental shot, it’s not a proper stroke like the cover drive.”
Ashwin and Jadeja shared 12 wickets, but India also paid the penalty for repeatedly dropping catches off Australia skipper Steve Smith during his second innings century (109), which put the match out of reach for the hosts.
DECEPTIVE FLIGHT THE KEY
“Jadeja was unable to control his spin, and was depending a lot on his arm ball, while Ashwin was attempting leg before only. The Australian spinners were trying to take genuine wickets. That was the difference between our bowlers and theirs,” Prasanna said.
The former off-spinner, who had a lot of success against Australia, both at home and away, said Indian spinners should have looked to flight the ball.
Saying that even experts were off the mark with their analysis, Prasanna said: “They were not tempting the batsmen to come out and drive. On that wicket they should be flighting the ball more, I saw it happen only once in 75 overs, when Ashwin drew out Steve Smith in the first innings.
“Flighting the ball is not tossing up the ball. It is deceptive flight, where the ball dips.”