Gloves Off

What Indian pacers must do to clinch the Test against Australia

Adelaide offers a chance for the Indians to go in on attack mode against the Aussies with a strong fast bowling lineup to boot.

 |  Gloves Off  |  4-minute read |   01-01-2015
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We have been waiting for the India versus Australia Test series to commence Down Under for what seems like ages. After Phil Hughes’ tragic demise took the focus away from cricket, both the teams have patiently waited for normalcy to return.

The loss of a human life can never be overcome easily but, being in professional sport, one has to get on with the job. On Saturday, when Cricket Australia decided to take away media duties from grieving skipper Michael Clarke, he must have been a relieved man. Going by what one has seen on television, Clarke has been hurt the most and his references to Hughes were indeed touching. However, the big test he faces in the next 48 hours is his own fitness as he battles a hamstring injury.

From India’s viewpoint, there is talk skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni could be leading straightaway from Tuesday when the first Test is played in Adelaide. The initial plan was Virat Kohli would lead in the first Test, originally scheduled to be held in Brisbane.

But with the Australians asking for a delay in the start of the series following Hughes’s death, the shift from Brisbane to Adelaide can be seen as a small plus for the Indians as the character of the pitches is different.

Had the first Test been played in Brisbane, the Indian mindset may have been defensive to start with. Adelaide offers a chance for the Indians to go in on attack mode against the Aussies with a strong fast bowling lineup to boot.

Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav have looked impressive in the two tour games. But it’s seasoned star Ishant Sharma who has to lead by example as he is the senior pro in the side. On Saturday, Ishant spoke about how he needs to get the basics right as he had not done well in the last series when India toured Australia in 2011-12.

It is not just on paper the Indian pace attack looks impressive. Ishant’s experience, coupled with the raw pace of Umesh, Varun and Mohammed Shami is potent and there is no reason why all four of them should not be played together if the pitch is going to assist pace.

We have seen how, in England and South Africa, Dhoni had a defensive mindset and the team did not do well. At this point of time, there is no certainty on whether Dhoni will lead in the first Test or Kohli. The latter’s captaincy has been refreshingly positive and in case Dhoni leads, he must aim to put the Aussies under pressure.

The key against the Australians in any sport is not to allow them to get on top early. And with this kind of a fast-medium attack available, one does hope Dhoni does not blindly press with the bowler he relies a lot on — Ravindra Jadeja. Jadeja is not the spinner who is going to get a bucketful of wickets Down Under.

Getting the right bowling mix is important and the skipper would do well to utilise Suresh Raina or Rohit Sharma as a part-time spinner. For that matter, if Dhoni or Kohli is ready for a gamble, it may be worthwhile to play Karn Sharma instead of Jadeja.

If the Indian bowling looks healthy, the batsmen have their task cut out. There is no use in dismissing the Aussies for a low score and then not being able to put up a good score. In England, the Indian batsmen were all at sea against the fast bowlers and the lack of footwork was glaring. Someone like Kohli also was in woeful form.

The batsmen need to play with intent and purpose so that the effort which the bowlers put in does not go waste.

Following Hughes’ death, a lot of talk has revolved around the bouncer, a vital weapon for the fast bowler. If you think this delivery is going to be in short supply, you could be in for a surprise.

The Australians have reacted very emotionally to the death of Hughes and Clarke has been unable to control his feelings. But that does not mean once the real action starts on the ground in Adelaide, the Aussies will be low on motivation.

As a sporting nation, the Aussies play with passion. If anything, to win the series for Hughes could be the new slogan as they take on Team India in a high-profile series where the quality of cricket promises to be exciting.

As for the Aussie pace attack, it is a mean one and how the Indians stand up to Mitchell Johnson and company is very important. There is optimism in the air and it’s about time Team India shows spunk from the start of the series.

Writer

S Kannan S Kannan @kannandelhi

Sports columnist.

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