Mumbai: Former India opener WV Raman on Friday said Indian spinners buckled under pressure of expectations in the second Test against England which the hosts lost by 10 wickets to allow the visitors draw level the four-match series 1-1. "A lot of pressure was on them as a reverse in India is not expected, especially on a turner. All put together, the pressure did them in a bit," said the Bengal Ranji Trophy team coach at the Brabourne Stadium here.
"What adds to pressure is the lack of runs on the board. I think that is a big difference. If you actually dissect the performance of the spinners, once they got the breakthrough [England captain Alastair Cook's wicket] when [Kevin] Pietersen and Cook were playing, they rolled them out quickly after that," Raman pointed out. "The big difference was that [Cook-Pietersen] partnership. We did not put enough runs on the board."
England, going strong when the two batsmen put on a record double century stand at Wankhede Stadium, folded up quickly once Cook was dismissed but not before they grabbed a vital 86-run lead over India and then shot out the latter for a meagre score in the second innings to set up the big win.
The former India opener also advised the Indian spinners to focus on bowling well and not taking wickets.
Raman also referred to India's pathetic top-order display in the first innings when the hosts were 119 for 5 and then 169 for 6 before Cheteshwar Pujara, who notched his second successive three-figure knock of the series, and R Ashwin put on a century stand to help the hosts notch up 327. The former Test opener maintained that in the third Test at Kolkata, starting December 5, there would be more pressure on the Indian batsmen to put up enough runs on the board for the bowlers to tighten the screws on England.
"If you look at the spin combination of both sides, England spinners [Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar] have a better record, both in terms of experience and in the number of wickets taken. They were definitely on top. I think the extra pressure is on the batsmen to perform because unless there are runs on the board, you can't do anything even if 4-5 spinners are playing in the eleven. You need to put up runs on the board, which we did not do," Raman maintained.
He advised the Indian spinners to exercise a lot of patience and focus on bowling well and not taking wickets. "It's about knowing what to do and having patience. A bowler like [Srinivas] Venkataraghavan would ensure that he would never give anything loose to the batsman and let the pitch take care of the turn. As a bowler you need to have the mind of a miser. Prassy [Erapally Prasanna] will always say 'I would recommend the bowler to bowl well and not to get wickets..' in short don't be all over the place.
"Bowling on a helpful track is not easy because contrary to what people believe, the batsman has a lot of angles to work the ball around when you err in line or length even by a small margin. On a good track, even if the bowler is short, he can get away but on a turner the batsman can go back to cut or pull or what not. Also, there is very little chance of a leg before because of the turn," he remarked.
"We also have to see the context in which the teams played. If you look back [on the Mumbai Test], Harbhajan [Singh] was making a comeback after a long time. He is definitely not coming back with a flattering record in the four-day game. He has come back because he has a lot of experience and the feeling he can contribute a lot.
"Ashwin is just a year old [in international cricket] and he will find more challenges as he goes along. International cricket is not easy; that's one thing he will find out. [Pragyan] Ojha, you can say, in a way has an identity crisis. You can't put a finger on him and say he's the lead spinner," Raman said.
"Spinners did the job with the bat too...Ashwin got 60, otherwise India would have been rolled out sooner. There was a talk about 270 being a great score on that [Wankhede] track which was rubbish," he said.
The former India player expected a better performance from the spinners in Kolkata but said the the turn or bounce at the Eden Gardens pitch would not be the same as was the case with the Wankhede wicket. "Basically it is a case of having patience. On such a track, you need to be patient and keep at it at all the time. I think they will bowl better in Eden, but the only problem is they may not get the turn or bounce of the Wankhede."
Raman said Harbhajan might have been underutilised at Mumbai as India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni is not used to playing with three frontline spinners. "It's about captain taking a call at the time as to who would do the job for him. Sometimes these things happen. Our captain is used to handling two spinners and two pacemen all the time. When there are 3 spinners on a turner, there is the chance that somebody would bowl less overs."
Raman praised English skipper Cook for the manner in which he has played the spinning ball. "Cook is playing in the right manner. He's always playing for the turn against the off-spinners which means when it turns he is there and when it straightens he is not going to be in any problem.
"Secondly it is not easy for an off-spinner to bowl a straight ball on a turner. It takes a lot of skill. That means he has already made the off-spin bowlers think about bowling the 'doosra' or the 'carom' ball, or whatever else, a lot more than what they would do otherwise," he said.
"Against Ojha what he is doing is he's playing for the straight delivery. Even if the ball turns, the umpire is not going to give him out. That's the reason he has been getting runs not only in Tests but also in the lead up games.
"Basically the technique he adopted has been fabulous as compared to [Virender] Sehwag and [Sachin] Tendulkar who are playing inside the line and trying to work the ball to the on-side looking for the straight ball, so when it turned they got into trouble. It is the reverse of what Cook has done, expecting every ball to turn," Raman added.