Assessing India's Fast Bowling Options In Australia
Barely a week after thrashing the Sri Lankans 5-0 the Indian team is already in Australia preparing for another tough Test series before the eventual World Cup in February and March.
India has announced a larger than usual 19-member squad due to MS Dhoni’s injury keeping him out of the first Test in Brisbane.
Indian fast bowlers are generally an ignored lot causing big frustration for the fans with their performance as well as injuries which occurs more often than not. It is a well-debated mystery about how Pakistan comes up with new quality fast bowlers almost every tour where as India has failed to do so for many years.
The picture is not much different for this tour but at least Indians have their best five fast bowlers part of the bowling unit and if they can avoid any injury until the first Test they can go out with their first three preferred seam bowling options which would be a big plus.
Like most of the squad members, India’s fast bowling resources are also lacking international experience but despite their short careers they have showed enough sparks to provide hope for the Indian fans.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who will lead India's attack
The attack will be lead by Bhuvneshwar Kumar, the only bowler who is a certainty in the first eleven. Kumar stepped into international cricket in a T20 match against Pakistan in late 2012 and grabbed three wickets in his first two overs in international cricket.
Before that match, Kumar’s moment of fame was when he handed Sachin Tendulkar his first duck in Indian domestic cricket. But after that start against Pakistan with his performance he gradually became India's premier bowler in next two years.
Built with a relatively slimmer frame Kumar has the ability to bowl long spells. He may not get as much swing he likes to get in Australia but his control will be really handy to put pressure on an Australian batting line up which is also not very experienced without Michael Clarke who his out due to injury.
Bhuvneshwar was India’s best player in their latest tour of England. With 19 wickets he was India’s best bowler and carried the burden himself at times. His batting in the first Test was a revelation. In the first Innings he guided Mohammed Shami, the number eleven, to forge a century partnership for the 10th wicket.
It got better in the second innings when he batted for more than forty overs, built partnerships with Stuart Binny and Ishant Sharma to ensure that there is not late drama in a mostly drab Test match.
In Australia, Kumar’s main role will be to lead the bowling unit and keep one end tight even if he does not get enough swing to fetch wickets. Also his additional target would be to provide stability for India’s lower order and if required provide support to one of the higher order batsman to build any recoveries.
Ishant Sharma, India's most experienced fast bowler
Ishant Sharma is India’s most experienced bowler for this tour. His career, which started just before India’s tour down under in 2007, is now seven years old and this will be his third tour of that country.
Sharma, who started his career with the memorable battle against Ricky Ponting has gone through various ups and downs and could never get settled in the team due to poor performance and lack of fitness.
But now with Zaheer Khan almost out of the reckoning Ishant has grown up as the most experienced of India’s bowling pack and helped the younger bowlers to grow. This added responsibility has suited him well as indicated by the fact that three of his four best career performances have come in 2014.
His second innings spell against England at Lord's gave Indians one of their most cherished wins in foreign soil, their first at "headquarters".
Well above six feet tall, Sharma can extract bounce from any pitch and if he can maintain consistency and find the right areas he can be lethal in the Australian conditions. He should also start the first Test with Kumar.
Umesh Yadav (left) and Mohammad Shami - very similar bowlers
For the third fast bowler spot, the fight will be between Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav, two bowlers with very similar bowling styles and almost identical stats. Although Shami debuted exactly two years after Yadav, until now both of them have played same number of Test matches (nine), have taken the same number of wickets (32) and have two four-wicket hauls and one five-wickets haul each.
Although Yadav has a better average than Shami and generates much better speed which bowling, Shami has better control of the old ball and can generate reverse swing quite effectively as displayed by him in his first series against West Indies.
It will be a tough call. Shami has played more recently for India but Yadav has a feel of the Australian conditions as he played all four Test matches in the last tour with moderate success.
Varun Aaron - the man with the ability to deliver some 'chin music'
The fifth bowler is Varun Aaron, the quick lad from Jharkhand, the same state as MS Dhoni. Aaron has been under the spotlight for quite long time now due to the express pace he can generate at times.
Despite making his Test and ODI debut in late 2011 he has only been able to play three Test matches and a handful of ODIs. Various injuries had kept him out for long period of time and whether he can remain fit for the entire tour is a concern.
But, if he remains fit and bowls well in the nets, India may be tempted to give him a go to counter the Aussie chin music by someone offering the same verity from their own squad.
In recent times India’s away performance has not been up to the mark and this tour may not be any different. Although batting is their main area of concern but they still want a solid performance from their seam bowlers as taking 20 wickets will be the key for creating any opportunity for a Test match win down under, something which they failed to do in their last tour.
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