India named their starting XI ahead of the WTC Final against New Zealand in Southampton and departed from their traditional combination of going with six specialist batsmen overseas in SENA. Instead, the Virat Kohli-led side decided to play five batsmen, a wicket-keeper and five specialist bowlers naming both R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja in the line-up. India did not change their playing XI even as the conditions in Southampton remain overcast and batting legend Sachin Tendulkar seemed to agree with the decision giving his reasons of how spinners can raise their game and perform even in rainy and cold conditions in England.
Tendulkar differed from the popular notion of spinners not getting assistance in England and stated that they can cause trouble to the batsmen if the ball is well maintained and they make use of the heavy conditions.
“Over the years, I have noticed something that nobody speaks about. People normally talk about spinners not getting enough assistance from the pitch or say there is hardly any purchase off the surface. But I feel that spinners are able to do a lot in the air, if the ball is well maintained – if one side is shiny, it can be used to get drift. If an off-spinner is bowling, he can take the ball away from the right-hander in the air or change the position of the shiny side and try to get the ball to drift into the batsman – that is towards the middle and leg-stump line," explained Tendulkar to the Indian Express.
The Little Master added that spinners are used to deceiving the batsmen off the pitch with turn and bounce but that is not the only way of foxing them - the quality spinners, he suggested, can also outdo the batsmen in the air and use the drift to his advantage.
“You don’t always need to deceive someone off the pitch by getting more turn or bounce, sometimes you can deceive them in the air also. This is what a quality spinner will be thinking. It is not always about the ball turning, taking the inside edge and going to short leg and the batsman getting dismissed. One can also get the ball to drift away in the air and get the batsman caught behind or in the slips. There are lots of such dismissals and a skilful spinner will always be able to do this," added Tendulkar.
Tendulkar also gave his expert opinion on how spinners in England can make use of prevailing wind conditions - something which will be a factor in Southampton and can be used by Ashwin and Jadeja to their advantage.
“There are times when there is cloud cover and wind is also blowing. These conditions can also help spinners. In case the wind is blowing from off to leg (for a right-hand batsman), we can bring a left-arm spinner from that end where there is a chance to get a right-hander bowled or LBW," stated the batting genius.
Tendulkar then offered some invaluable tips on how an off-spinner can use the wind and atmosphere and local weather conditions to his advantage - suggestions that might be very useful for Ashwin.
“We can also get an outswing pacer from the other end (here drift will be from leg to off) or, for that matter, even an off-spinner who can get the ball to drift away from the right hander. If a left-hander is batting this end, he (the off-spinner) can come round the wicket and get the ball to drift in the air (into the batsman and turn away) and try to beat the batsman. All these elements come into play. Wind and atmosphere are important since they also impact the surface."
Tendulkar also highlighted the importance for the fielding team not to let the ball get outside the 30-yard circle especially when it rains and the outfield is still wet. This is where tactics, strategy and field placing becomes important.
“It’s all fine as long as the ball is not going outside the 30-yard circle since it is mostly dry. The moment the ball starts to travel to deep square-leg, third man, fine leg and deep point, there is a problem for the fielding side. The ball starts getting wet and stops moving. It may have a fraction of seam movement but swing will stop. That is what batsmen try to do post-rain. You try to make sure the ball gets outside the 30-yard circle. It is the imbalance of the ball that causes swing. That is the reason teams try to keep one side dry and one side shiny. The moment you have players touching the dry side with their palm, the moisture is absorbed by the leather. Once that happens, the imbalance is gone," stated Tendulkar.
Tendulkar backed the idea of playing two spinners even in overcast conditions in England as long as the pitch warranted that.
“If the surface demands that, then it’s absolutely fine. Both the spinners (Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja) can bat, they have got decent partnerships in the past. It won’t be out of place to play two spinners. The kind of surface they are playing on, it all depends on how much dampness there is on the surface or whether seamers are going to be effective or it will be the spinners. If it’s a normal pitch, something like Old Trafford, where one is sure that it will assist spinners, the three-two (three seamers, two spinners) combination has a strong case," quoted Tendulkar.