In second part of the article, Having a look at the Indian batting line-up, I would look at batsmen occupying the key number three slot as well as the strong middle-order. In the 90's, when India travelled abroad their batting line-up was too heavily dependent on the great man Tendulkar and as a result they used to invariably lose, when playing away from home as after all, it is a team effort that helps any team to win the match. In the last decade though, the Indian batting line-up has become a lot more stronger and it can be even considered that it is India's batsmen, who have helped them to win matches in alien conditions by getting big scores. So, let us have a look into the legends of Indian cricket, who at present occupy key positions in the batting line-up.
Dravid- Dravid occupies the key number three position in India's batting order. Batsmen who play at the number three slot, carry a great responsibility on their shoulders, as they would likely come up against the new ball. The player occupying the number three slot becomes even more important in England, as the batsman who plays at that position would have to likely play in tough conditions with the ball doing a bit in the air, or off the pitch.
Over the years, Dravid at the number three slot has done a wonderful job of weathering the early storm of facing a newish ball. In-fact, he has done even better in England which shows his pedigree as playing in England is always tough for subcontinental batsmen because they aren't used to playing the moving ball. Dravid's ability to play the ball late and his eagerness to come forward at every given opportunity makes him a tough batsman to bowl to.
So what are the options a captain has when it comes to attacking the Great wall of India? In recent times, the Great wall has shown a few cracks and it looks like there are some options available for a captain to attack Dravid. One of the key factors to note in Dravid's technique nowadays is that his judgement outside the off-stump isn't as good as it used to be. It is on expected lines as Dravid is 38 now. I have especially seen left arm seamers getting Dravid out caught in the slips with deliveries that is angled across him. Dravid's bat speed for some reason has become faster because of which he has sometimes gone hard at the ball and has got caught in the slips. Dravid also favours the on-side. Yes, he has certainly developed his game through the off-side with sheer hard-work, but early in his innings, one always gets the feeling that he can play with a slightly closed face which in turn leaves him a bit vulnerable against the outswinger.
The two bowlers I would look at against Dravid are Anderson and Swann. Even at worst of times, Anderson's outswinger can trouble the batsmen as he has the ability to slant it slightly into the batsmen then shape it away from the batsmen. Dravid's tendency to close the face slightly may leave him vulnerable against Anderson's outswingers. In the past, Anderson has troubled Dravid a few times especially, when there is a bit of movement. I can surely remember Anderson getting Dravid out in the 07 series at Lord's with an outswinger that swung late and took the edge of Dravid's bat. Even in that innings Dravid played with a slightly closed face and it is something Anderson may look at and try to bowl a similar delivery this time around.
From the other end, I would look at Swann as my attacking option. Swann bowls a nice drifter and I have a feeling if he does bowl that delivery against Dravid, he may just produce the edge with Dravid looking to play Swann on the on-side.
Tendulkar-I must be kidding if I ever say that great Tendulkar has a weakness. He is the greatest batsman I have seen and would get into any list of great batsmen. So is there no option to get Tendulkar out? First and foremost, just like other batsmen in World cricket, one mistake can spell the doom for even the great man Tendulkar and make him take the long walk back to the pavilion. I also wrote a few lines on what a bowler can do when up against the great man in my article Tribute to Tendulkar. I would just like to reproduce a few points from that article.
In my humble opinion, if there is any weakness in his game, it is when he plays a straight drive. It is one of his favourite shots, but occasionally, he can play that shot from the crease which can leave him vulnerable against a swing bowler early in his innings. Jimmy Anderson has got him out five times by bowling a fuller length and Hoggy too has dismissed him. Couple of examples I can remember include Anderson bowling full at Oval and SRT getting bowled as he didn't move his feet. Hoggy too got him out at Lord's by bowling a similar delivery. The fact though is, both those dismissals came early in his innings and once he gets in, more often than not he doesn't miss out when playing the straight drive.
Seam bowlers have looked to get him out by bowling a short delivery which tends to leave SRT. McGrath got him out at Edgbaston in the 99 WC by hitting back of a length and getting awkward bounce to catch Tendulkar's edge, Flintoff did something similar at Mohali in 05/06, though when compared to McGrath's length, it was slightly shorter, I have seen Lewis troubling him with some decent bouncers and even Olonga is said to have got him out in a tournament in Sharjah. SRT is no more than a school ruler, so however good he maybe, sometimes it can become difficult to play a lifter. The fact though is, as Gavaskar once said, no one likes facing bouncers and every batsman has to look at ways to counter it. So, if a batsman gets out to a very good delivery once in a blue-moon, it can't be called as a weakness.
In the England team, it will be very difficult for even Tremlett to reproduce the delivery that McGrath bowled in the WC as he bowled a great length and it got big on SRT. Nowadays, SRT doesn't play the pull shot too many times yet, he is an expert in leaving the short delivery. Jimmy Anderson can be more of a threat against Tendulkar as he bowls a full length and gets swing. As I have said it above that early in his innings, Tendulkar sometimes doesn't move his feet while trying to play the straight drive which can leave him vulnerable against the full swinging delivery.
Laxman- Along with Dravid and SRT, Laxman has been the backbone of India's middle-order for the last decade. Laxman seems to be more of a wizard than a batsman, as he uses his wrists like magical wand to play delightful shots on either side of the wicket.I haven't seen a single batsman having better hands than Laxman. Even deliveries that are around the off-stump are sometimes flicked through the on-side for four by Very Very Special Laxman.
Yes, he is a great player to watch, but it is also a fact that VVS hasn't made a single century against England. One of the key reasons for that is, his technique is more suited to bouncy tracks as he stands tall and uses his wrists to play shots. At the same-time, he doesn't move his feet much which leaves him vulnerable against the moving ball in England.
When up against Laxman, I would look at Anderson as my first option, as he bowls full and gets it to swing late. Anderson though, has to attack the stumps rather than bowl just wide of off-stump to Laxman. As VVS has great hands, he has the ability to punish anything that is slightly wide of off-stump. Yes, a few may have a counter argument that with his lack of footwork, he may chase a slightly wide delivery and get caught behind, but he has such great hands that more often than not he is able to manoeuvre the field by finding the gap through the off-side. So, the best option is perhaps to attack the stumps as with Laxman staying on the back-foot, there is always a chance of the delivery going through his defenses. Yes, there is also a good chance of Very Very Special Laxman flicking a delivery that is slightly off-line which is drifting towards Laxman's pads for a boundary, but a bowler should be ready to get hit while bowling to class batsmen like Laxman.
Tremlett can be the second option against Laxman. He bowls a shorter length when compared to Anderson, but especially in the second innings of a test, there is a decent chance of Tremlett extracting variable bounce by hitting the pitch hard and a few deliveries can keep low. As VVS plays most of the times on the back-foot, Tremlett's variable bounce can cause problems provided, Tremlett attacks Laxman's stumps. Tremlett can very well remember Laxman playing a delightful cover-drive on the up in the second innings at Lord's in 07, but the next delivery Tremlett attacked the stumps and cleaned up Laxman with Laxman again hanging on the back-foot.
Tremlett can also just look to bowl the odd surprise bouncer as VVS has the habit of hitting it in the air. Anyone remember Corky trying a short delivery at VVS and VVS hitting it straight to the fielder in 2002 at Trent Bridge? He is a great puller but doesn't look to keep the pull shot down.
In the last part of this article, I will look at rest of the batsmen including the captain of the Indian team Dhoni. Finally, I will also predict the scoreline for the series!