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‘Go for the quartet’

It was almost 50 years ago India played four spinners in Test matches. But going by what happened in Chittagong in the Bangladesh versus England Test last week, India could field all the spinners at their disposal in the upcoming series against the Lions.

‘Go for the quartet’
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England captain Alastair Cook pins down Joe Root as Haseeb Hameed (left) watches

Chennai

The spin quartet, Bedi, Chandrasekhar, Prasanna and Venkataraghavan, played together in a handful of Tests at home at a time when India had just one medium-pacer in the team.  Either Sunil Gavaskar opened the bowling or Bedi bowled with the new ball. However, Bangladesh proved even that one medium-pacer was a luxury when their four spinners bundled out England in their second innings in one session after the tourists were 100 for no loss. “Look, it was not just four in Chittagong, they had six including Mahmudullah (off-spinner), who did not bowl though he was in the playing eleven,” observed former Tamil Nadu left-arm spinner Sunil Subramaniam. 

“Five of them bowled and I am tempted to use four spinners for India against England.” Sunil Subramaniam believes along with Ashwin and Jadeja, both Amit Mishra and Jayant Yadav (off-spinner) should be unleashed on England. “Both Ashwin and Jadeja are decent batsmen and so is Jayant Yadav,” the former spinner made a case for another spin quartet for India, especially against England in the series starting next week. While the Indian think-tank might still be reluctant to go for four, Amit Mishra would walk into the team as the third spinner not only because of his recent form (five wickets in the one-day match against New Zealand) but also considering that English batsmen are traditionally weak against leg-spin. 

After Chittagong, the English commentators have been running for cover, desperately asking for a half-fit pacer Jimmy Anderson to be rushed to India and advocated the use of sweep as a weapon to counter the Indian spin. Even for this, they would dig deep into the past to recall Graham Gooch’s famous century against India in a World Cup match in which the England opener swept repeatedly to unsettle the spinners. “Historical evidence means nothing because that was a One-Day International and it was played long ago, almost thirty years ago. It would have worked 10 or 15 years ago. Nowadays, the bowlers are smarter and they would take you out of your plan,” said Sunil who feels these are all mind games. “It only shows how desperate England are after the  Bangla disaster.”

Sunil said generally, the spinners perform the ‘one session magic’, the spells that yield wickets in a heap in the sub-continent. Mehedi Hasan did that in Chittagong, Ashwin did it in the recent series and Harbhajan Singh was the hero for India with such spells against Australia in Kolkata and Chennai. Even Mishra performed the magic in Visakhapatnam last week in the ODI in a three-over spell. “This is mainly because batsmen from South Africa, Australia and England use hard hands and their defence is exposed against quality spin. That is why many of them are caught by fielders close to the bat,” explained Sunil.  England would feel ill at ease they have not even one practice match before they play the first Test at Rajkot on November 9.

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