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India Eye Away Tours With Challenging Tracks At Home

November 22, 2017

India bagged 17 Sri Lankan wickets at the Eden Gardens in just 109 overs, which is not a rarity keeping in mind the way they have performed over the last couple of years. But leave aside these 2 years, how many times in the History of Indian cricket have we seen an Indian pace bowling unit making the spin attack look completely irrelevant just as they did in Kolkata? With Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav bowling 99 overs between them across the two innings asked just the remaining 10 from Ashwin and Jadeja

(ranked 2nd and 4th respectively in the ICC test bowlers’ rankings before the test match) for the entire game.

This had a lot to do with the conditions – grey skies overhead and green pitch underfoot, the latter of course went from damp to cracked as the game progressed. Throughout the game we witnessed a pitch to aid seam bowling, so much so that it might raise suspicions regarding whether India had asked for a green top to prepare for their upcoming South Africa tour that falls in January followed by the other tours thereafter.

The course that India charted through the first test against Sri Lanka though, was in many ways like a successful test match under difficult overseas conditions. There were setbacks in the first innings in both the departments : Having been put into bat by Dinesh Chandimal India at one stage had lost half their side with just 50 on the board and were eventually bowled out for 172; while the bowlers tried too hard, losing both patience and control in the process and only managing to concede a 122-run lead that looked threatening at that point.

In the second innings however, India did manage to make up for their deficiencies from the first half of the match. Dhawan and Rahul put up a 166-run opening stand and the Indian captain followed up with his 50th International Ton to set Sri Lanka a challenging fourth innings task – survive the possible 47 overs that were left, or chase down 231 in that time. But as the Indian seamers were bulldozing through the Lankan batting line up and were set to pull off the mother of all comebacks that took place before in a test match with all 5 days interrupted by rain, fading light came to the rescue of the visitors, who were reduced to 75-7, clinging on by their fingernails as Shami drew blood from one end and Bhuvi probed surgically from the other.

Watching this test match, the teams that still lie in wait for India to reveal the answer of the longstanding question, What kind of pitches would actually give India the home advantage – won’t have had their answers here either. But something what we all can understand that India are definitely eyeing to work on skills that can win them matches abroad. If we take a look at some of India’s famous overseas test wins, be that of Johannesburg in 2006, Durban in 2010 or at Lord’s in 2014 – they all have come on seaming pitches that narrow the gap between two different pace attacks with the help on offer making up for the deficiencies that Indian pacers have had regarding their discomfort at bowling long spells having both the accuracy and the intensity retained.

All three members of this Indian pace attack along with Ishant Sharma, the other quickie in the squad have been the part of India’s last cycle of away tours from December 2013 to January 2015. Interestingly all of them impressed in patches and also looked ordinary at times when conditions were not in their favour. But since then this group of seamers seemed to have learned a lot from their experiences and what they have shown is that they can hold on to their own when their skills are more likely to come under sharper focus than those of spinners. For example, there was the SSC in 2015 when Ishant bowled India to victory on a seaming deck. There was Eden again, some one year ago, just after its pitch was newly relaid as it had a lot more seam movement and probably even more inconsistent bounce, Bhuvneshwar and Shami with some help from the spinners outclassed a NZ pace trio that comprised Boult, Henry and Wagner. Then again, earlier on this year, there was a drier Bengaluru surface which was still quite a bit up and down, Ishant and Umesh showed more discipline than Starc and Hazlewood did for Australia; that also helped India to mount a terrific comeback despite having been bowled out well inside 200 on day one. Couple of tests later we witnessed a bouncy Dharamshala pitch that looked more like an Australian than Indian, Umesh and Bhuvneshwar still blew away the Aussie top order in the second innings.

Although for most part these seamers have been support acts to Ashwin and Jadeja over the last couple of years on pitches aiding far more spin than pace. It is not that this Indian pace attack is anywhere near to the Roberts-Holding-Croft-Garner combo. But this is the best collection of fast bowlers India have ever had. Each is a little different from the other and all four growing with time. Alongside their pace bowling that looks far more assured than that of past they also have a settled group of batsmen with different dimensions and a pair of top class spinners in their squad to ensure that they have every base covered. If all of them are fit and ready to play in South Africa, then the No. 1 test side could pose the Proteas quite a challenge.

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From → Cricket, Test Cricket

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