Bowling with imagination is an attribute that underlines a spinner’s growth. Ravichandran Ashwin has displayed this precious quality in the first two Tests of the on-going Border-Gavaskar series.

Bowling with imagination is an attribute that underlines a spinner’s growth. Ravichandran Ashwin has displayed this precious quality in the first two Tests of the on-going Border-Gavaskar series.

More than his roaring returns in the two matches that include three five-wicket hauls — he has scalped 18 batsmen at 16.77 — the manner in which the off-spinner has harnessed the angles and plotted with skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni augurs well for the future.

The 26-year-old Chennai bowler also has this habit of releasing the ball late which can enable him to see the initial movement of the batsman or, at least, get an inkling of his intent.

This is precisely why essaying the sweep shot against Ashwin can be dangerous business. The chances are that a fuller length ball might defeat the batsman’s motives.

Even as he made history at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium here by becoming the Indian captain with most Test wins, Dhoni had his finger on the pulse of the game.

Ringing in the changes

The 31-year-old Dhoni rung in the changes capably and maintained the pressure on the Australian batsmen with fields that were in sync with the tactics. And there was deception.

For instance, there were occasions when he employed a short-leg for left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja but there was no silly point. The ploy was to get the batsman play more freely on the off-side — the silly point would not be looming on his mind — and nick one to the ‘keeper or the slip in the process.

These are subtle mind games in the arena when a captain creates an illusion with his field-placements. There are no words or glares exchanged but the job is done.

The 24-year-old Jadeja has been a revelation in the series; his 11 wickets in the first two Tests coming at just 19.00.

On surfaces such as the one at Uppal where there was assistance for spin, Jadeja can be hard to cope with since he gives very little away because of the inherent accuracy in his bowling.

And the changes in trajectory have been subtle. Jadeja gives the ball air on occasions but these deliveries are not overly flighted. He does impart revolutions on the ball. Importantly, the left-armer was getting the sphere to ‘grip.’

Quality dismissals

There were a few quality dismissals among his six wickets in the second Test. The right-handed Moises Henriques, playing with an angled willow, was castled by one that spun across the face of the bat in the first innings.

Soon, Jadeja got one to straighten — with little change in his action — to have Glenn Maxwell caught behind. The straighter one, that has more bounce than turn, is a good variation for Jadeja.

And the delivery that had Michael Clarke — among the finest players of spin in world cricket — beaten and bowled was classical left-arm spinner dismissal. The drift in and the spin away made for fascinating viewing.

Jadeja puts the batting line-ups under stress since he gives so little away. While Pragyan Ojha, who has done little wrong really, is unlucky to miss out, Jadeja has certainly made an impression.

And if Jadeja’s batting picks ups in Tests, he could lend India the much-needed balance away from the sub-continent where the side could actually play three pacemen and two spinners. This said, Ojha must also be kept in the scheme of things.

Crucial knock

While the immaculate Cheteshwar Pujara continues to climb the rungs — his match-winning 204 here was an innings of technical purity and strength of mind — Murali Vijay’s 167 was crucial for India in the context of the side ‘finding’ an opener.

The opening pairing has been an area of concern for India and Vijay’s sound methods, judgment in the corridor, and range of strokes once he settled down, would have made the selection panel, which had shown faith in the right-hander, smile.

The wise men also need to take a call on Virender Sehwag. Not a young man at 34, this batsman of hand-eye coordination and reflexes, has to find the right balance between defence and aggression. For most part of the season, Sehwag has been tentative and largely unsure of himself at the crease.

Coming to Australia, most of its young batsmen are technically ill-equipped against spin. These batsmen must realise that their captain Clarke — he uses his feet and plays with the full face of the bat in front of the wicket — is a better role model than Matthew Hayden.

Hayden swept his way to success in India but the sweep shot is laden with risks and is not recommended for all.

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