India must go back to playing three spinners and spin a web around the circumspect South African batsmen on a dry-turner, writes Aakash Chopra
Mohali not only gave India the ideal start to the series, but also the requisite momentum. While the washout in Bangalore did dampen Indian spirits a little, a dry-turner dished out in Nagpur shall lift them again.
South Africa is yet to bat more than 68 overs in this Test series and that shows how Test cricket exposes the chinks that are easily hidden in shorter formats.
The same South African batsmen looked at ease in both T20s and ODIs but the presence of close-in fielders and a slightly spinner-friendly pitch has exposed their vulnerability.
Amit Mishra celebrates the wicket of South Africa’s AB de Villiers on Day One of the first Test in Mohali earlier this month. Pic/AFP
The last time South Africa played a Test match at Nagpur, Hashim Amla scored 253 and set up an easy win for his team. Amla hasn’t really turned up for this Freedom Series (T20s, ODIs and now, Tests) and his poor form has finally caught up with his team’s fortunes. While South Africa managed without him firing in the limited-overs format, the lack of runs from his blade is hurting their chances in Tests. He’s one of the few South Africans who knows how to tackle spin and also, has the ability to bat for long hours. For the visitors to maintain their enviable away record (SA have not lost an away series in the last nine years), Amla will have to come into his own in this Test.
Change the order
Faf Du Plessis has had a horrid Test series (one run in three innings) thus far and therefore there’s an urgent need for South Africa to shuffle their batting order. Since the two openers Elgar and Van Zyl aren’t posing a great threat to the Indians, it’s imperative to put your best batsman at No 3. While Amla’s form is a concern, he still remains their best bet for Tests, and hence should push himself up the order. Amla at three will allow De Villiers to bat at four and that will give him more time to control the game. As of now, De Villiers is forced to bat with the tail for too long, and there’s only so much you can do alone. Duminy and Du Plessis can occupy five and six respectively.
Mann in fray?
Even though only a day’s play took place in Bangalore, it was enough to suggest that Binny is a poor choice as a seam-bowling all-rounder in India. India were fortunate that South Africa, once again, bundled out cheaply or else the absence of Mishra would’ve been sorely felt on the first day itself. Since it’s a dry-turner in Nagpur, it’s a no-brainer to go back to playing three spinners and spin a web around the circumspect South African batsmen.
I have a strong feeling that Gurkeerat Mann might make his Test debut as a fifth bowler. While you can’t argue with the intent to play five bowlers, it will be interesting to see how the fourth spinner can be utilised properly. Not to forget that spinners not only like bowling long spells, but also need to get that opportunity to plot a dismissal. So far, Kohli has given really short spells to his spinners in this series and the presence of a fourth spinner might make the spells even shorter.
18 Number of wickets taken by leg-spinner Amit Mishra in four Tests this year