Stuart Binny is rarely ever entrusted with the new ball even in Ranji Trophy, but Virat Kohli, despite having Aaron, opened the bowling with the all-rounder on Day One against South Africa, writes Aakash Chopra
Plant your front foot before the ball has left the bowler's hand and try to read the spin off the surface. Well, that's how you should never play spin but that's exactly how the South Africans (barring De Villiers and Amla) have countered Indian spinners in this Test series.
Stuart Binny. Pic/Getty Images
On hindsight, Kohli's decision to field first might look like a masterstroke but in my humble opinion he's gotten out of jail. Since there was a lot of rain around in Bangalore leading up to the second Test, the pitch was under covers for a very long time. Perhaps, that's why the Indian think-tank assumed that there'd be a lot of surface moisture on the 22 yards, and that also led India to pick Stuart Binny in place of Mishra.
But the first few overs bowled by Ishant and Binny were enough to indicate how wrong that assumption was, for the ball didn't deviate even an inch after pitching.
If it weren't for Ashwin's ability to weave a web of spin, India would've regretted both, the decision to leave Mishra out and to bowl first. After all, it was only the second instance in the last 20 Tests in India where the captain chose to bowl first.
The curious case of Binny
Binny has taken only 21 wickets in the 15 first-class matches he's played for Karnataka at the Chinnaswamy Stadium. Even for his state side, he's often the third, and at times, the fourth seam-bowling option. It goes without saying that he's rarely entrusted to bowl with the new ball even in a Ranji Trophy game.
But Kohli, despite playing Aaron, opened the bowling with Binny. One can understand that Binny's best chance of picking wickets is with the new ball on a fresh pitch but Binny bowling with the new ball also happens to present the best opportunity for the openers to get their eye in. As an opener I'd like to face Binny over Aaron seven days of the week.
Also, if India was looking for a new-ball swing bowler then why not play Bhuvneshwar instead? In fact, it's worth developing Bhuvneshwar as an all-rounder, for he did bat reasonably well during India's tour to England.
Dhawan looked good
In his short Test career, Dhawan has looked both a match-winner and a liability, and that's why he's been an automatic pick on many occasions but also, has been dropped a few times. After getting a pair in Mohali, once again there were questions raised over his presence in the Test side. Even though he had a rather middling ODI series against South Africa, it was only prudent to remember that he'd scored two tons in the last two Test matches before this series.
Back among the runs
While Philander's absence in Bangalore helped his cause, he also left alone a lot of deliveries outside off. It's good to have him back among the runs but if he is to become a permanent fixture in the Indian Test team, he must tighten his technique further. Dhawan must realise that no opener with an apparent weakness outside off has enjoyed prolonged success at Test match level. He can take a leaf out of his opening partner's book, for Vijay is showcasing
astute judgment of where his off-stump is.
Well, first the rain must stop and then India must do the running around. India should look to bat only once and give at least 70 overs for South Africa to bat on the final day. It's not going to be easy because it'll effectively be the third day pitch even on the final day but it's worth a try.
Aakash Chopra is a former India Test opener