Spinners have continued to torment Indian batsmen for quite a while now. Are we no longer good at playing spin, asks Joseph Hoover
We were masters at playing spin bowling in the halcyon days. Not anymore. The demoralising defeat to New Zealand in the T20 World Cup at Nagpur has only exposed our batsmen's vulnerability against spinners.
Chasing 127 for win, India stumbled and crashed for a parsimonious 79. Evidently, there was no demon in the wicket. Except for Nathan McCullum, Mitchell Santer and Ish Sodhi lacked international experience. They merely used acumen and accuracy to drive Dhoni's boys in blue to their doom, sharing nine wickets between them. Shocking.
Surprisingly, Dhoni did not complain against the spin-friendly track, as he had done when Sri Lanka defeated India by five wickets at Pune on February 9, 2016. Dhoni had sarcastically lamented that the Maharashtra Cricket Association had produced a seamer-friendly wicket, which had more movement of the seam than the pitches in England and New Zealand.
Historically, seam, pace and bounce have always troubled our batsmen, especially when we play in South Africa, England, Australia and New Zealand. It doesn't surprise us when our team doesn't perform on away tours. But a poor performance at home raises our hackles, more so when we are demolished by spin.
In the recent past, England beat us with spin, scoring a rare Test series win in the sub-continent. Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann had tormented our established batsmen. We thought it was a one-off performance. But, spinners have continued to torment us.
Are our batsmen prolific only on flat, even-bounced wickets?
If we were to take the recent set of established batsmen, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and V V S Laxman did well in all conditions. Virat Kohli has shown that he has the skill, mettle, determination, and class to do well against spin, pace, bounce and seam. Ajinkya Rahane has done well against the quicks, but he has been gullible against spin.
But the same can't be said of the rest of the present lot of batsmen. Shikhar Dhawan employs aggression to overcome his weakness. Rohit Sharma thrives when the ball comes on to the bat. But if there is a hint of movement or bounce, he doesn't last too long. Suresh Raina is never comfortable against the short, rising ball.
But the trio can score big and win matches when there is even bounce. We can't understand why they can't work on their weakness. Rohit Sharma is the only batsman to score two double hundreds in ODIs, but he has not lived up to his reputation in Test cricket.
Should Dhoni ask for spin-friendly wickets?
Though Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja devastated South Africa in the Test series on made-to-order turners, our batsmen didn't do too well. In the past, visiting teams would travel with a battery of fast bowlers. Now, they include as many as three to four specialist spinners in the squad.
Obviously, the lack of quality spin bowlers has impacted our batsmen's technique. The spinners haven't asked too many questions in the domestic circuit, exposing our batters to wily spin exponents in international cricket.
If India has to sustain its lofty place in the ICC rankings, our batsmen need to improve their technique and temperament to quell fast bowlers on away tours and spinners at home. Else, New Zealand and England will continue to steamroller us.
Author: Joseph Hoover