A TEAM that has men with the ability to knock over 20 opposition wickets can only claim superiority in Test cricket. The longest form of the game is as simple as this logic. The difficult part is marshalling those capable men in conditions and surroundings that are way too different from what they are bred upon. Winning overseas is as simple as that! As India begin their test of character in the Australia series, their success hinges on the bowlers who are up for the tough challenge.
The series Down Under is set to be a closely-fought battle as both the teams boast of some of the world’s finest bowlers in their ranks. By the first look at the team sheet, India would breathe easy with the presence of world-class bowlers. Former Indian pacer Zaheer Khan has rightly analysed the equal strength both the teams possess in the pace department.
The Indian pacers are at par with their Aussie counterparts and most certainly would prove to be more than handful for the home batsmen. This fact gives equal billing to both the teams on the favourites’ scale. Agreed, Australia will be a different kettle of fish with the presence of David Warner and Steve Smith. Both were notable absentees in their 1-2 series defeat to India in 2018-19 as they were serving a year-long ban for their role in the ball-tampering scandal that shocked the cricket world. But the fact remains that Indian bowlers, especially the likes of Mohd Shami and Jasprit Bumrah, are fresh from the Indian Premier League (IPL) outing where they showed their class in taming some of the best willowers in the world. The Smith-Warner duo, too, had a taste of what the Indian bowlers are capable of.
The focus now is on keeping the momentum on the Australian tracks. Indian pacers over the years have always enjoyed bowling on the Australian pitches. In fact, on most tours India were let down by the batters while the bowlers toiled hard to bring position of advantage in numerous sessions. The legend of India’s famous victory in 1981 in Melbourne was built on the heroics of Kapil Dev who braved a strained hamstring to return with improbable figures of 5 for 28 to dismiss Australia for 83 in the fourth innings while defending a paltry 143. The Benson & Hedges triumph in 1985, too, had Roger Binny sending down superb spells to keep a tight leash on the strong Aussie line-up. Subsequent years saw one or the other bowler spearheading the Indian attack to give ascendancy to the visitors.
Anil Kumble’s eight-wicket stunner in Sydney and Ajit Agarkar’s sensational six-wicket haul to turn the Adelaide Test on its head have become great memories for Indian cricket. Ishant Sharma’s spell-from-hell to a clueless Ricky Ponting has already become a legendary stuff. The present crop of fast bowlers has also ‘been there and done that’. Jasprit Bumrah was the architect of India’s win in Melbourne on the last tour. He was just six-Test old but never got cowed down by the names in the opposition. Each time India have done well in Australia the bowlers played a huge role. Talk about the top line of bowlers in the world today and most of them will be featuring in this series. They will be the key in deciding the final outcome.