Former India opener Gautam Gambhir hit out at the balance of the home team’s bowling attack as England made hay on the first day of the four-Test series.
Gambhir felt that Mohammed Siraj, who helped India to their unlikely 2-1 series victory over Australia with a total of 13 wickets and a best of five for 73 in the decider at the Gabba, should have been retained in place of Ishant Sharma.
He also criticised the decision to ignore the left-arm wrist spin of Kuldeep Yadav in favour of the more orthodox skills of Shabhaz Nadeem, who was given only his second Test cap at the age of 31.
“I would have picked Siraj,” Gambhir said. “The reason is that Ishant hasn’t played any red-ball cricket for a very long time. Straight after IPL he has got injured and then he has played only T20 cricket. It’s not like you have got the third seamer in your ranks and you can actually just go on to bowl 12-13 overs a day.
“You might have to bowl 15-16 overs plus it’s always easy to bowl in T20 cricket but not in red-ball cricket where you’ve got to make things happen,” he told ESPNcricinfo.
Sharma ended up bowling those 15 overs in four short spells, and although he found some reverse swing in the second and third of those before a brief return for the second new ball, he left the field empty-handed, even if, in conceding only 27 runs, his economy rate was impressive.
Gambhir said India could even have held Ishant back for the pink-ball Test in Ahmedabad, where they would expect to go in with three seamers, and should have let Siraj continue after his excellent return against Australia.
“You might have to play three seamers with the pink ball at Motera. So I would have definitely built him for Motera or probably for the second Test match and gone with Siraj because Siraj is coming off such a fabulous tour and he bowled such long spells in Australia.”
The 39-year-old, who is now an MP who represents East Delhi for the ruling BJP, described Kuldeep’s omission as “unfortunate”.
“A lot of time we have seen how a wrist spinner can turn the game,” he said. “It’s a little unfortunate and [I am] a bit surprised as well that they are playing with two off-spinners [Ravi Ashwin and Washington Sundar].Probably because they want more depth in the batting.”
His replacement, Shabhaz, failed to catch the eye, conceding 69 runs from his 20 overs. With Sundar going at four and a half an over in his 12 overs, the inexperienced pair finished with joint figures of 32-3-124-0 as England reached 263 for three at the close.