Increasingly, nations have depended a lot on their home pitches and conditions for Test match success and getting wins away from home is a bonus. But when those home-like conditions become a thorn, what must one do?
India, for close to a decade, have been found wanting against quality spin and have found themselves troubled on square turners. Graeme Swann, Monty Panesar, Nathan Lyon, Moeen Ali, Steve O’Keefe, along with several others, have made Indian batsmen dance on their tunes. Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar spun the 2012 Test series in England’s favour when they destroyed the Indian batting line-up in Mumbai, as their combined figures of 19/323 started the English charge which meant they would go on to win the four-Test series 2-1.
Moeen Ali would prove to be India’s nemesis in England in a cold Test match in Southampton. Ali finished with figures of 8/129 in the Test match which meant the series was levelled and then produced figures of 4/39 in Manchester to help England take a lead in the series. Moeen Ali, by proper definition, is no way a frontline spinner.
Nathan Lyon picked up 12/286 in the 2014/15 series and deny India a win in Adelaide, with India falling 48 runs short of chasing 364. India collapsed on the final day with just a bit of excess spin than the normal Adelaide wicket. Rangana Herath would then embarrass India in 2015 picking up 7/48 in the second innings of the first test in Galle as India, chasing 175 to win, lost by 63 runs.
India beat South Africa comfortably on turners at home as the away side did not possess a potent spin attack or a spinner to bowl consistent lines on such tracks and the same could be said of New Zealand and England in the subsequent series. However, Australia’s spin attack enjoyed the festivities the Pune track offered to them. They bowled consistent areas and got dismissals out of the Indian batsmen. And as frequently as it happens in India, one wicket leads to a procession.
India is a spin-friendly country and every batsman who arrives there is expected to tackle spin comfortably. For such a country, the recent record against quality spin has not been good at all. Rank turners, plus a quality spin attack, is what India have used to hunt opposition teams before, but opposition spinners are now proving equally adept at getting the most out of such tracks.
Indian batsmen have been found wanting on these pitches and have lost more than a handful of games in the process. So the question needs to be asked: do India really need to produce rank turners, given their own frailties against quality spin attacks? The present spin bowling attack is more than capable of being able to take 20 wickets on tracks with even a hint of spin.
Therefore, when the second Test gets underway on Saturday morning, it would be foolish for India to prepare another spinning pitch: instead, they must put faith in their seam attack.