The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Opening with spinner may help

This one-day series is turning out to be a nightmare for the bowlers of both sides. The pitches have really been sleeping beauties and with the grounds being small and outfields lightning fast, boundaries have come in torrents. There have been some huge sixes too, none bigger than the one Chris Gayle hit out of the ground off Harbhajan Singh.

However, it is the spinners who can turn around and say they had a bearable nightmare than the quicker bowlers whose extra pace has only helped the batsmen send the ball to the advertising boards and into the crowd even quicker.

Once again, the toss was the crucial element and the West Indian captain paid the ultimate compliment to the Indian batsmen by asking them to bat first. Mind you, Sourav Ganguly would have done the same too but with better spinners in his ranks he would have thought that he would be able to stop the West Indies batsmen. This pitch also looked a lot drier than the previous ones and the spinner would be able to get a bit more turn and come onto the bat slower. Unfortunately for Sourav, Chris Gayle is in such outstanding form that he will get runs even if the pitch were to be like the surface of the moon. He would get them in style.

It was the West Indiansí start that made it easy for them in spite of a mini-collapse in the middle, which gave India some hope. Poor Balaji was massacred and it is patently unfair to expect a bowler to start well in a limited-overs format where the mindset is more about restricting runs than picking wickets.

A fast bowler has to be aggressive and that means an attacking field but the limited-overs format does not allow that luxury and so he starts off defensively straightaway and has to bowl differently. When experienced bowlers like Srinath struggle to make the adjustment how can one expect Balaji to do so immediately and that too on his debut when he could be nervous anyway. Look how a couple of matches has helped Murali Kartik relax. His bowling here was different from his first outing. Kartik was prepared to flight the ball, vary his pace and change the line too. The ball that got Ramnaresh Sarwan out was a beauty that Bishan Singh Bedi, that master of spin, would have been proud of.

India must also ask its batsmen to follow the example of Gayle and keep going to three-figure innings and not throw wickets away. It is difficult for a new batsman to keep up the same pace and tempo as he takes time to get set and used to the pace and bounce of the pitch. Thatís why batsmen who are set should keep going and not get out in the fifties.

The tactic of not sending Yuvraj Singh and Mohammed Kaif to bat in the first couple of matches has left them short of practice. Hence, the duo is struggling for runs though Yuvraj must look at the percentages of trying to play the flick shot from outside the off-stump to the leg-side for it has got him out in two successive matches now.

That the West Indies used spinners to bowl 26 of the 48 overs would have pleased the Indians. Perhaps they should look at their tactics against the in-form openers Gayle and Hinds. It may be worth a try to open the bowling with a spinner at one end. Itís a tactic which has worked in the past and to be honest it canít get worse than the new ball bowlers being taken for ten runs an over. The lack of swifter moving fielders also has made a difference as boundaries have been given away where only two should have been given.

Apart from Yuvraj and Kaif there is nobody in the Indian team who could find a place in any international team for their fielding. Yes, there are some good catchers in the close-in positions in the team but in this format there are not too many placed in those positions anyway. With an attack like the one India possesses it is imperative to have fielders who will make it harder for the batsmen to get easy runs, but in this team, taking the single or an extra run is as easy as taking candy from a kid.

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