The two-pronged off-spin attack that India is using in the second cricket Test against England in Mumbai is a ploy that the hosts last used a decade ago.
Spin is the trump card India are using to undermine England on a Wankhede Stadium track that has afforded copious spin to the visiting tweakers -- Monty Panesar and Graame Swann -- with the hosts fielding three frontline slow bowlers for the first time after six years.
This was in total contrast to skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s words at the pre-game media conference yesterday that India were to field two medium pacers and spinners -- Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha.
It was at Mohali in the opening game of the 2006 drawn series (1-1) that India had last fielded three frontline slow bowlers with Harbhajan being part of the trio along with the now retired Anil Kumble and the discarded Piyush Chawla.
In the early 1990s when Mohammed Azharuddin was the captain, Venkatapathy Raju, Rajesh Chauhan and Kumble had played together in the same match, including in the 1992-93 home rubber against England.
It was also in a series against England that two off-spinners played in the same Test on Indian soil when Harbhajan Singh and Sarandeep Singh turned out in the same game in Bangalore in December 2001.
Prior to that, Shivlal Yadav and Gopal Sharma played together against Imran Khan’s Pakistan in the third and fourth games of the best-of-five series at Jaipur and Ahmedabad in the 1986-87 series.
Away from home M Venkatramana and Arshad Ayub, both off break bowlers, played against the West Indies in Jamaica on the 1989 tour to the Caribbean islands.
Yadav had earlier played alongside another senior off spinner S Venkataraghavan in his debut series against Kim Hughes’ Australian team in 1979-80.
Playing two off spinners, or three slow bowlers or even all four, was not unheard of in the annals of Indian cricket when the spin quartet of Erapalli Prasanna, B S Chandrasekhar, B S Bedi and Venkat ruled the roost.
In the 1969-70 home series against Australia, off-spinners Prasanna and Venkat had played in all five Test matches against Bill Lawry’s team.
In 1967 in England, all four spin bowlers played in the same Test match, at Birmingham, under the captaincy of the late Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi.
This was repeated in 1987 at Ahmedabad against Pakistan when Yadav, Sharma, Maninder Singh and Ravi Shastri were in the playing 11.