In­dia’s pace hype faces stern test in Aus­tralia se­ries

Gulf Times Sport - - CRICKET -

Hav­ing spent frus­trat­ing decades en­vy­ing Pak­istan’s end­less sup­ply of fast bowlers across the bor­der, In­dia’s ex­cite­ment around their cur­rent pace at­tack is pal­pa­ble but they would do well to tem­per their sunny op­ti­mism in Aus­tralia.

For a na­tion that tra­di­tion­ally built their bowl­ing at­tack around crafty spin­ners who op­er­ated as if their life de­pended on it, In­dia have fi­nally ac­quired a ver­sa­tile pace at­tack, which helped them claim 20 wick­ets in all but two Tests this year.

In­dia cap­tain Vi­rat Kohli pleas­antly finds him­self spoilt for pace choice, a lux­ury none of his pre­de­ces­sors in the job had, and is nat­u­rally up­beat about win­ning the four-Test se­ries Down Un­der, some­thing the pre­vi­ous In­dian teams could not man­age in 11 pre­vi­ous at­tempts.

In Mo­hamed Shami, the tourists have got a quick who can move the ball both new and old. It was hardly a sur­prise that the In­dian board lim­ited his work­load to 15-overs-per-in­nings in the do­mes­tic Ranji Tro­phy prior to the se­ries in Aus­tralia.

Among oth­ers, Bhu­vnesh­war Ku­mar’s prodi­gious swing, Umesh Ya­dav’s con­sis­tent pace and Ishant Sharma’s ex­tra bounce make them real as­sets.

Cherry on top is Jasprit Bum­rah, whose sling-arm ac­tion and awk­ward re­lease point along with his abil­ity to bowl york­ers al­most at will adds an X-fac­tor to the unit.

When coach Ravi Shas­tri was asked in Au­gust if this was the best In­dian at­tack ever, the for­mer Test player gushed, “By a mile, by a mile. No (other In­dia) team comes even close.”

South Africa cap­tain Faf du Plessis con­curred, hav­ing had a first-hand ex­pe­ri­ence against them ear­lier this year when his team pre­vailed 2-1 in an in­tense home se­ries.

“... for the first time, they’ve got three or four seam­ers in their squad that can bowl 140(kph)plus and are very good bowlers,” du Plessis told www.cricket. com.au re­cently.

“Ob­vi­ously when you come to con­di­tions like South Africa, Aus­tralia, Eng­land, you need pace bowlers and in the past they might have had one or two, but now they’ve got three or four.

“And when they trav­elled in South Africa (ear­lier this year), we felt like that was the best pace (at­tack) that they’ve had.”

Con­sid­er­ing they will be op­er­at­ing against an Aus­tralian team shorn of two of their best bats­men — the banned duo of Steve Smith and David Warner — In­dia have rea­sons to be op­ti­mistic but the chal­lenges are sub­stan­tial.

For starters, it is go­ing to be a dif­fer­ent ball game, quite lit­er­ally. Un­like the SG or Dukes balls they usu­ally wreak havoc with, the old Kook­aburra in Aus­tralia does not re­ally swing or seam, which could sub­stan­tially de­fang the In­dian quicks, es­pe­cially Ku­mar, who is un­likely to be fielded for the se­ries opener in Ade­laide from Thurs­day.

The lack of side­ways move­ment from the firm sur­faces will also mit­i­gate the threat Shami or Ya­dav would oth­er­wise pose bowl­ing else­where, while the heat will chal­lenge them to main­tain their pace through­out the day.

Sharma will be look­ing for­ward to the ex­tra bounce as he chases re­demp­tion in ar­guably the cru­ellest place for a tour­ing bowler where each wicket has cost the tour­ing bowlers 47 runs since 2000.

In his 10 Tests Down Un­der, the gan­gly quick has man­aged only 20 wick­ets with an em­bar­rass­ing 62-plus av­er­age — worst by a full-time bowler who has sent down a min­i­mum of 2000 balls in Aus­tralia.

The team could still ben­e­fit from the ex­pe­ri­ence of the 30-year-old, be­lieves for­mer In­dia pace spear­head Za­heer Khan.

“Ishant lead­ing the at­tack on his fourth tour (of Aus­tralia) now, that’s heaps of ex­pe­ri­ence which is very im­por­tant,” Khan told www.cricbuzz.com.

“You need not look at the num­bers all the time... the ex­pe­ri­ence of play­ing in Aus­tralia is go­ing to play a huge role.”

Spoilt for choice: Vi­rat Kohli

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