Virat Kohli is avowedly a proponent of the “six batsmen, five bowlers” theory in Test cricket.
The dynamic India Test skipper believes that it is the only way to win games and be aggressive.
In theory, it is a wonderful ploy. Six batsmen should be able to get the team the desired runs on the scoreboard. Five specialist bowlers ought to be able to bowl out the opposition and restrict them if required. This would also decrease the load on the fast bowlers, especially the Indian ones who seem to lack the legs to come charging in at the end of the day when the new ball is available. Bowling 18 overs in a day is somewhat more palatable.
“I would want someone like R Ashwin, who is averaging 40 with the bat in Test matches – you really can’t ask for more from an allrounder – and someone like Harbhajan Singh to step up with the bat, and [Wriddhiman] Saha too. If those three start clicking, you literally have eight batsmen, and you can’t really ask for more as a captain. It’s basically up to the first six to take more responsibility and we are confident of doing that.”
The above statement requires further analysis.
The stratagem, as stated, will execute just fine on sub-continental wickets. It is when India tours England, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa that the shortcomings become evident.
The team need batsmen who can exhibit patience, fortitude and technique abroad to counter the fast bowling threat. The nucleus of the side, thus, has to remain unchanged. I am not a fan of the ‘horses-for-courses‘ method of selecting the side.
Quicker, bouncier wickets would need Team India to play three or four pacers. Are any of these in the all-rounder mold? Except for Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Irfan Pathan (perennially injured), none of the current lot inspire confidence.
Gone are the days when the likes of Madan Lal, Roger Binny and Manoj Prabhakar could be counted on to contribute 20-30 runs with the bat and two to three wickets with the ball.
Fast bowling all-rounders, as a breed, are almost extinct on the Indian cricketing scene while batsmen-wicketkeepers flourish aplenty.
Perhaps, the new Ranji regime where games are played on grassy pitches with steeper bounce will revive the species.