India need Shami to fire at Rose Bowl
The Bengal bowler has lacked his old pace and looked dependent on reverse swing. Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, notwithstanding their marvellous performances in previous matches, cannot be expected to constantly repeat such showing.
It will be a slight injustice to drop Karnataka all-rounder Stuart Binny after he has played a match-saving innings and was the victim of a bad decision in another in his four outings in two Test appearances.
But the pros and cons of this will be the topic of discussion at the tourists' team dinner on the eve of the match, with Mumbai specialist batsman Rohit Sharma likely in line to be recalled if Binny is rested.
The bowler friendly wicket in the 2nd test at Lord's negated the need for five bowlers; and Binny's medium pace hardly got a look in. In fact, he didn't get to bowl in the second innings at all. Also, on the same type of pitch India skipper Mahendra Dhoni seemed uncomfortable batting at number six, which Rohit's inclusion may resolve.
The track for the next game at the Rose Bowl in the county of Hampshire near the southern English port of Southampton is likely to be of a sporting nature, therefore probably not enforcing an extraordinary toil on bowlers to take wickets.
There could be less grass on the pitch than in the previous encounter - which India won - but probably more bounce. This would help the faster users of the leather; and perhaps, also the spinners - the former Australia leg-spinner Shane Warne, who captained Hampshire, certainly thinks so.
England's problem is their Plan A - of playing four quicker bowlers and inserting India on a green-top - rather backfired at Lord's and with an acute absence of quality spinners in the county scene, they do not appear to have a Plan B.
It will, of course, be interesting to observe if Jos Buttler keeps wickets better than Matt Prior, who has been dropped. This replacement could, however, inject an attacking dimension to the hosts' batting.
India, on the other hand, should not shy away from batting first on a bouncy wicket, for their frontline batsmen left the short ball alone better than their English counterparts, although the window of reaction may be narrower at the Rose Bowl than at either Trent Bridge or Lord's.
India ultimately triumphed after going ahead in the series in 1986 and 2007. So history is in favour of Dhoni's squad, leading as they are 1-0 in the current 5-test clash. At the same time, there is no room for complacency.
Modern-day recovery regimes may be mind-boggling and Dhoni sounded pleased about the five day rest after Lord's. But cumulative fatigue and the necessity to remain motivated are factors they should not ignore. Consequently, coach Duncan Fletcher and Dhoni have their tasks cut out.
(Posted on 26-07-2014)