By Boria Majumdar
The battle lines have been drawn and the umpires are due to call play a few days from now. It is the start of the much anticipated revenge series. And England, from what we have seen so far, looks prepared for the battle. In Swann they have one of the best in the business to counter the guile of Ashwin and the Indians, on home turf, will have to be up for the challenge.
There’s one important thing missing, however, for the English and that might well act to India’s advantage. As is the norm with every India series, there will be no DRS. And in the absence of technology Graeme Swann is half the force.
A look into the record books and Swann’s dependence on technology is palpable. Close to 30% of his wickets have come from referrals, which were turned down by umpires officiating in the middle at the first instance. His action and trajectory is such that on field umpires find it difficult to give a batsman out leg before wicket. As an umpire you can’t raise your finger unless you are hundred percent certain and that has hurt Swann on many occasions in the past. And Swann, in this series, will not have television replays to stand by him.
More than anything it is a mental issue for more than anyone Swann himself knows how dependant he is on television replays and the referral system. He will surely take time to adjust himself and every close call turned down will inevitably make him feel deflated. That’s where the Indians need to capitalize for in Swann the English have their most potent weapon in Indian conditions. Unlike in England 2011 where Swann was only a side act, in India he will be the lead actor with Anderson and Broad playing the side cast.
While on the one hand Swann might rue the absence of technology, Ashwin has already fired the first salvo saying he has developed this new mystery ball for the English. He doesn’t have the technology issue to deal with for he has never used technology in a test match on home soil. Having practiced the mystery ball consistently for the last two months and mastered it in time for the series, it might well be that India’s premier spinner uses this new ace up his sleeve as a surprise weapon. Bowled with the same grip as the carom ball it is one that goes the other way. Ashwin, who thrives under pressure and who has been waiting for this series as much as anyone else, has done all that is needed to be in the best physical and mental space in the lead up to this much anticipated battle. In Ojha he has his trusted partner and between the two there is tremendous on field camaraderie, which helps their cause. They bowl well in tandem and have been in good bowling form at home for a year now.
Add to this the much needed Virender Sehwag hundred in the Ranji trophy and the Sachin Tendulkar masterclass against the Railways and you feel the Indians are going into the series as red hot favorites. Except the concern over Zaheer Khan, which has been the case with every test series India has played in the last few years, there is nothing much that Dhoni and his men need to be bothered about before the first ball is bowled at the Motera.
Finally, however, it is all a battle in the mind. It is a battle between two skippers and how one can unnerve and outwit the other. It is about on field acumen and spur of the moment thinking, about not feeling deflated when a couple of sessions don’t go your way. It is indeed a battle of nerve and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, it is expected, will do all to turn the tables on Alistair Cook. If only the Indian skipper can get a few much needed runs with the bat in the middle order we can surely expect him to lead from the front.
The stage then is set for this high octane battle. I just hope there are a few thousand people in the stadium for this much anticipated clash.