Despite the placid nature of the pitch at Motera, the Indian bowling was disappointing in the first Test. Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his men simply did not get their gameplan right on a surface of this sort.
This, perhaps, is not the flattest track seen in the country, still Sri Lanka’s 760 for seven declared is the highest Test total on Indian soil.
For most part, the Indian attack lacked purpose. Spin legend Anil Kumble’s control was sorely missed.
Indeed, the lack of consistency in the Indian bowling was appalling. On a surface already loaded in favour of the batsmen, run-making became easier.
There were quite a few tactical ploys the Indians could have attempted. For instance, when the pitch offers little, tight and precise bowling can make the batsmen work for their runs.
A paceman can bowl an off-stump line — he can even pitch the ball a touch wide to frustrate the batsman — with a packed off-side field. But then, such tactics on a flat deck require extreme accuracy.
No sense of direction
Leg-spinner Amit Mishra did try operating round-the-wicket against the right-handers with five fielders on the leg-side but his line lacked a sense of direction.
Tactics are often dictated by conditions and a negative line can, on occasions, yield positive results. Mishra should have consistently landed the ball outside leg and spun it around the leg-stump. Instead, he experimented by flighting the ball across the right-hander and went for runs.
Former England left-arm spinner Ashley Giles bowled an outside-the-leg-stump line to the right-handers from over-the-wicket when Nasser Hussain’s men visited India in the 2001-02 season. Giles was immensely successful since he was relentless with his methods.
The young Mishra’s basics are right, but the leg-spinner needs to impart greater revolution on the ball. His bowling still lacks the fizz off the surface that is so essential for a leggie. Perhaps, he can add a quicker ball to his repertoire.
Mishra would want to forget the Motera experience in a hurry; he conceded 203 runs for his lone wicket in 58 overs.
Senior off-spinner Harbhajan Singh — 189 runs for two wickets in 48.4 overs — was no better.
If he has assumed the role of the spin spearhead, there was little evidence of that at Motera.
Even if the pitch remained docile, a seasoned bowler like Harbhajan should have been able to hoodwink the batsmen in the air, keep them guessing with subtle changes of length and speed. Spin bowling travels beyond the mere nature of the pitch.
Harbhajan bowled on both sides of the wicket and there were occasions when he pitched short. For most part, his bowling was pedestrian with little guile.
Here, it must be mentioned that Dhoni’s captaincy proved a let-down. His deep set fields allowed the batsmen to pick singles at will. And the Sri Lankans were still able to find the odd boundaries.
Test cricket — on any wicket — is a lot about creating the pressure and the stress. At the heart of it all is denying the batsmen easy singles.
Prassana Jayawardene’s unbeaten 154 is an example. There were only 11 boundaries in his effort; the wicket-keeper batsman worked the ball around into the generous open spaces for most part.
If the field is in, then opportunities can be created when batsmen attempt to go over the top. Miscued drives can be held at a short cover or a short mid-wicket.
Straighter bowling elbow
Paceman Ishant Sharma probed the batsmen in the corridor on a few occasions, but sent down too many deliveries lacking in length or direction. He needs to get his bowling elbow straighter so that his wrist position — critical for a seam bowler of his kind — is higher.
Zaheer Khan was the best Indian bowler on view. The experienced left-arm paceman put in a lot of effort to achieve lift at Motera but could have employed the full-length short-ball routine more judiciously.
Despite coach Gary Kirtsen’s brave words in defence of his bowlers, the Indian attack was below par in the first Test.