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'India must play five bowlers in first Test'
December 02, 2003
It will surely cross the Indians' mind whether to play two spinners in the first Test at the Gabba. Spinners traditionally don't play a huge role in Brisbane but as Shane Warne has shown in the past, you could do your stuff on the fourth and fifth day. For that to happen, the Indians will need to take the Australians on the final days, something a lot of visiting sides haven't done against the world champions recently. They could do it if they play near to their potential as Australians are not used to be stretched. If that happens, spin bowlers could be decisive.
I think the Indians should look to take their four best bowlers in the game. If two of their best four are spinners, then so be it. They could also show themselves positive and aggressive by having five bowlers since Australians tend to rattle up a huge score and then put the opposition under pressure.
A lot of visiting sides show negative attitude. Try not to lose ground to the Australians in the first game and then hope for headway as the series wears on but I'm not sure if this is the right way. The Indians need to get their attitude right and resist the Australians who surely would be looking to breathe fire and dominate them from the first session of the first Test.
If the Indians take six batters including a wicketkeeper who could bat and if they still lose trying to be positive, so be it. At least they would have shown a positive attitude at the start of the series.
Harbhajan Singh, to me, lately doesn't seem a bowler who has done too well in Test cricket. It could be because he has been too much into one-day bowling mode. It will be important for India if he retains his Test match bowling form. It is not beyond him either since quality players raise their game when it comes to big matches. He surely has a role to play because Australians traditionally haven't done too well against quality off-spinners.
It is really positive on the part of the Indians to seek out Bruce Reid's services as a bowling coach. He was one great Australian cricketer whose career was cut short by injuries. He had the potential to be one of our all-time best bowlers. He has done tremendous work with Nathan Bracken and has been responsible for his elevation. If he could work with your left-arm pacemen, he could really give crucial inputs about the deficiency of Australian batsmen and help put the pressure back on the hosts.
I think the best way to get to the Australian batting is to bowl with controlled aggression. It wouldn't help if they try to breathe fire and end up bowling rubbish. They would be whacked around if they show mindless aggression. They need to bowl a good line, maintain control and be aggressive and Reid could play a role here. If the two left-arm pacemen could swing the ball, bring the ball in for right-handers and bowl deliveries which leave the left-handers they could be handful.
But they must bowl in the right corridor and show controlled rather than mindless aggression.
Australia would surely look to target Sourav Ganguly. They have always done it against the visiting teams. He would be a target, as surely would be other batsmen, as their ability to cope with short-pitched stuff would be put to question.
Sachin Tendulkar, as always, would be a key batsman for the Indians, but it would be folly if they leave everything for the great man to deliver. They couldn't be putting all their eggs in one basket and rely on him all the time. Other guys have to step up and play their roles. It can't be if Tendulkar comes good everyone fires and if he fails the others perform as if they have no hope.
This Indian line-up has a lot of quality and the Rahul Dravids and Sourav Gangulys are all capable of producing big scores. If the Indians could raise a huge total, their bowlers could bowl better and it would put the team in better shape.
With Steve Waugh announcing his retirement, it would surely act as a motivation for the Australian team. They surely would like to make it a memorable one for Steve.
Although it would not serve as the only motivation, it surely would be at the back of their minds to pay a fitting tribute. They surely would be trying a percentage harder and it could all make things still tougher for Ganguly and his men.