By Ashis Ray
Trent Bridge (Nottingham), Aug 6 (IANS) Shardul Thakur, the only genuine swing bowler in the Indian XI playing in the ongoing first Test against England here, could have been entrusted with the new ball.
But captain Virat Kohli instead invited Mohammed Shami to open the bowling with Jasprit Bumrah.
Captaincy is about innovation and thinking out of the box. Having selected a horses-for-courses side, with pre-eminent spinner Ravichandran Ashwin making way for Thakur in conditions helpful to swing bowlers, a scientific decision would have been to turn to the latter while the leather was still shiny. This, at least in the second innings, given the Maharashtra medium pacer’s promising performance in the first essay.
In earlier Tests, Ishant Sharma with his ability to bowl inswing has bowled ahead of Shami, who is otherwise very effective, but one who essentially hits the seam with the ball deviating either way.
Both Bumrah, with his unorthodox action, and Mohammed Siraj, with his more conventional approach, mostly angle the ball, swinging only the odd one.
New Zealand, the reigning world Test champions, generally initiate their attack with Tim Southee or Trent Boult or both, as they are primarily swing bowlers. A faster bowler or seamer is given an opportunity later.
Australia almost always give the new ball to Mitchell Starc, as do England in the case of James Anderson, despite Mark Wood being a much faster exponent of the craft.
Therefore, Kohli could have improvised by introducing Thakur early in the second innings, especially since the others failed to adequately bend the ball in the air.
Besides, having obtained a valuable lead of 95 runs, the skipper would have been justified in employing an aggressive field for a sustained period.
However, after Tea on Friday, the 3rd day of the match, he retreated to two slips and a gully or three slips without a gully. These were defensive tactics and also drove home the point that Bumrah, Siraj and Shami were not sufficiently swinging the ball, though the last mentioned did find the edge from the word go.
More rain is forecast on Saturday, thereby making it imperative for India to take wickets quickly, if they are to enjoy a chance of forcing a victory.
It’s also a disappointment for the fans who have enthusiastically bought tickets, rendering the first four days of the contest a sell-out.
(Senior cricket writer Ashis Ray is a broadcaster and author of the book ‘Cricket World Cup: The Indian Challenge’)