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India tour of New Zealand: Room for experimentation

With series lost, India may as well hand Amit Mishra, Ishwar Pandey a chance in last ODI.

The New Zealand squad during a practice session a day before they play the final match of the ODI series against India at Wellington (Daksh Panwar) The New Zealand squad during a practice session a day before they play the final match of the ODI series against India at Wellington (Daksh Panwar)

Hazarding a guess about whom Mahendra Singh Dhoni is going to pick in the XI is, well, hazardous. Still, the way Amit Mishra was working on his deltoids before the nets on Thursday, his motivation surely couldn’t have been to carry drinks in yet another match. The leg-spinner, one of the two players in this 16-man Indian squad who haven’t got a chance so far on the tour, had a fairly busy session in the morning.

If he does get a look-in in the fifth and final ODI at the Westpac Stadium on Friday, what good will come out of it, given that spin hasn’t been India’s biggest concern in this disaster of a series? Why fix, you may ask, when it ain’t quite broke?

Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin have bowled quite competitively in New Zealand. However, one thing they haven’t provided so far is timely breakthroughs. Even in the last game at Seddon Park, where the pitch was providing considerable turn, only Jadeja looked threatening. Ashwin seemed as if he was defending more than attacking, and was content doing it.

“We needed a wicket as they had a good partnership going. I was getting turn and was hoping to get one or two breakthroughs for the team, and we could come back. Unfortunately I did not get a wicket when we needed one,” Jadeja said on Thursday.

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Without taking anything away from Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson, two of New Zealand’s best bats against spin, they weren’t really tested enough at least from one end: Ashwin’s end. The batsmen saw off the initial threat and steered New Zealand through a tricky phase. At that time, when Jadeja was sowing seeds of uncertainty in the batsmen’s minds, he needed a partner at the other end who could attack. For, if India were going to win the match, it wasn’t by stemming the run rate but by getting wickets.

Mishra, by virtue of being a wrist spinner, therefore, could have been a smarter option. In any case, wrist spinners have been known to perform better than finger spinners in Australia and New Zealand. What goes in their favour is that not only can they turn the ball more, the tracks also provide good bounce. Which is perhaps why Mushtaq Ahmed was the second highest wicket-taker in the 1992 WC. And which may be one of the reasons why Australia have provided great wrist spinners.

The exponent of this craft may have become rare, replaced by left-arm spinners who give more accuracy, but with the World Cup here next year wrist spinners will surely be turning a few heads. South Africa will have Imran Tahir and Pakistan Shahid Afridi (hopefully). And India won’t harm themselves if they add this variety to their attack. Mishra, therefore, could be an intelligent pick, and some experience here will do him a world of good.

A more along-the-expected-line change, however, could be medium pacer Ishwar Pandey. After the Hamilton defeat, Dhoni said that his fast bowlers, who have been hammered without exception in the series, weren’t really using their brains and would not be a certainty for 2015. Pandey’s World Cup trials could, therefore, begin as early as tomorrow.

In the last match, India’s experiments backfired. However, that shouldn’t deter them from trying. They are 3-0 down, and the series is lost. Just to try and make it a “respectable” 3-1, they should not step back. The phrase “playing for pride” often smacks of hubris.

Southee cover

New Zealand, meanwhile, will look to blank the World Champions, but that desire hasn’t deterred them from making a change in the squad. Matt Henry was called as a cover for Tim Southee, who could be rested ahead of the two-Test series against India. The 22-year-old Henry, a fast bowler capable of consistently touching the 90 kmph mark, earned the call up  after his five-wicket haul for Canterbury in a First-Class match against Otago last week.”.

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