For ages India’s Test batsmen prided themselves on being the best players of spin bowling in the world. India was the graveyard for the world’s best spinners, as both Muthiah Muralitharan and Shane Warne will testify.
The sight of an Indian batsman charging down the tracks and hitting even a good delivery over the ropes has demoralized many a spinner.
A look at the spinners who have tormented India in the last couple of years…
Graeme Swann-Monty Panesar:
Exactly two years ago, England toured India. After losing the first Test, Indian fans were shouting “whitewash”. However England struck back with a vengeance and Swann-Panesar together took an astonishing 19/20 wickets in the second Test at Mumbai and we never recovered after that.
Swann was the pick of the series claiming 20 scalps and Panesar was close behind with 17. With James Anderson also in decent form, we went down 1-2, a rare home Test series loss. Swann retired soon after and Panesar flopped and may not return to Test cricket.
Hardly any Indian fan had heard of Shillingford before the first Test match at Eden Gardens in 2013. He bowled Shikhar Dhawan in just the 15th over to break the opening partnership of 42. Then he took 3 more wickets and had India reeling at 83-5 after the West Indies had made 234. The tail saved India in that match and Shillingford picked up 11 wickets in 2 Tests. The spinners didn’t get support from West Indian fast bowlers and India escaped.Moeen Ali:
If falling to an English spinner on a crumbling home pitch could be seen as an aberration then failing to read a part-timer on an English pitch was disastrous. Even Ali himself must have been surprised by the success he got when India visited England in 2014. While Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin picked up 12 wickets together in the Test series, Ali picked up 16.
India was in the pits in the third Test at Southampton. Leading 1-0, India needed 445 runs to win and go 2-0 up or at least draw to retain its lead. Ali’s 6-67 saw India crash to 178 all down. We never recovered after that and got thrashed 1-3 in the end.
That series catchline could well have been… Ashes to ashes and dust to dust,
If fast bowlers don’t get you the (part-time) spinner must.Nathan Lyon:
The signs were there when Australia toured India in 2013. While the Aussies were whitewashed, what went unnoticed was the fact that Lyon picked up 15 wickets in the Test series. In the first Test match at Chennai, he picked up the prized scalps of Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli and Virender Sehwag. He was mysteriously dropped for the second Test and didn’t make much of headway in the third. But in the final Test at Delhi, he wrecked the Indian batting line-up with his 7-94 as India made a rare sub-300 first innings total on Indian soil.
A pathetic Australian batting performance meant that India was chasing a paltry 155 in the final innings of the match, but Lyon still managed to get Tendulkar and Kohli. Lyon picked up from where he left off in the Adelaide Test which was a beautiful batting wicket. Our top seven batsmen got starts (53, 25, 73, 115, 62, 43 and 25) but Lyon kept breaking partnerships from time to time and no-one could hang around for a really big score.
We had every chance of going past Australia’s 517-7 and maybe even do 600 but thanks to Lyon we were pegged to 444.
The second innings was probably one of the most humiliating innings against spin of all time by Indian batsmen. Chasing 364, India was coasting at 242-2 but then Lyon demolished the Indian batting line up as it was a Bangladeshi one.
India suffered yet another humiliating defeat on foreign soil, which has become a staple diet for Indian fans by now.
Lyon now has 21 wickets in the last four innings. Add fast pitches and Australian fast bowlers and India is staring at a 0-4 Test whitewash.
Time was when no opposition Test spinner could get the better of Indian batsmen. Now that’s so many in a couple of years and the nightmare continues.
In 2011, we couldn’t play fast bowlers in England and Australia. In 2012-13, we couldn’t play spinners in India.
In 2014, we can’t play spinners in England and Australia.
What next?The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/