Will Pragyan Ojha’s man-of-the-match-clinching 10-wicket haul in India’s last Test (vs West Indies in Mumbai last month) count for anything when skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni decides on the playing XI for tomorrow’s opening Test against South Africa at the Wanderers in Johannesburg? Probably not!
Dhoni is likely to go with regular spinner Ravichandran Ashwin — the offie whose overseas performances are in stark contrast to his home deeds.
Ashwin will become the first Indian specialist off-spinner to play a Test at the Wanderers, where India have yet to lose a Test. Leg-spinner Anil Kumble figured in all three Tests at the Wanderers — 1992, 1997 and 2006.
South Africa’s erstwhile Chinaman bowler Paul Adams reckons it’s going to be hard work for whoever gets the spinner’s slot in the playing XI. “The Wanderers doesn’t really turn much, so it’s going to be hard work. The seamers would be under pressure as well like they were in the one-day series. They really have their work cut out if they want to give their batsmen a chance.
You would need a spinner to control the South African batsmen,” Adams (36) told MiD DAY from Cape Town, where he is head coach of the Cape Cobras, a team which boasts of South African stars like captain Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis, Hashim Amla, JP Duminy, Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander.
“It’s very important to control the game. There will be a period where the spinner has to keep it quiet and ensure the batsmen don’t dominate too much. The Indian spinners have the capability to do things when the wicket is turning, but when the wicket is good, I think your role becomes very, very important,” Adams stressed.
Who would Adams pick — Ashwin or Ojha? “Ashwin has the carrom ball and all that. He has variation. It also depends on the South Africa combination at that time. They have a lot of left-right hand combinations. You would want to use the spinner, who has the best control on the day. Ashwin can do that, but I also think Ojha has come on very well. Ashwin will probably get the nod because of the batting as well,” said Adams, who came on the 1996-97 tour of India.
Back in 1996...
Adams, who had an unusual, frog-on-a-blender action remembered disturbing Sanjay Manjrekar’s furniture on the opening day of the Ahmedabad Test in 1996. “I flew in just before that Test match and I got my break. We lost the game and I remember it also for VVS Laxman’s debut,” he said.
In the next Test at Kolkata, he ended Mohammed Azharuddin’s splendid innings of 109 through a caught and bowled dismissal. “He scored 109 in 77 balls. We won that game (by 329 runs) and Lance Klusener claimed eight wickets in the second innings on his Test debut. I also cannot forget Azharuddin and Sachin Tendulkar going crazy with their partnership at Cape Town in 1997 (222 for the sixth wicket after being 58 for 5).
That was one of the spectacles even though India lost the series.” In 45 Tests from 1995 to 2004, Adams claimed 134 Test wickets. Despite being underdogs for the Test series, Adams believes India’s young team will be stronger soon. “India have an abundance of talent. It’s only a question of confidence and backing that ability. If you manage this period of transition well, they (players) will start firing,” he concluded.