AUSTRALIA TOUR OF INDIA, 2017
India’s awesome threesome emerges as the difference
• Last updated on Tue, 28 Mar, 2017, 12:31 AM Vishaal Loganathan in Dharamsala
Umesh has married his pace with great control to emerge into a potent strike force. © BCCI
It was an Indian attack that was showing Australia how things are done on a pitch that was distinctly Australian.
The Dharamsala surface, since the start of the Test, had been hailed – by players and coaches alike – as the best wicket in the series thus far. In fact, there was so much purchase off the wicket for the quicks, that people even compared it to the famous WACA surface in Perth.
On such a pitch, you would have expected Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon to be more of a threat thanks to the extra bounce. However, it turned out to be Umesh Yadav, R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja who ran riot.
The Indian attack is slowing starting to show that it has the weapons to become a threat in any conditions.
“[They] Found a little bit of extra bounce or whatever it may be in the wicket, and put us under pressure. It’s Test cricket, India played very well today and really challenged us,” was how Graeme Hick summarised India’s bowling performance.
For long, bounce was considered to be India’s biggest enemy. In Dharamsala, they made it their best friend. In Ranchi, on an otherwise dead pitch, the made full use of a rough to make life tough. In Bengaluru, variable bounce in the wicket helped them level the series.
This has become a constant feature with the current Indian team. Umesh, Mohammed Shami, Ashwin and Jadeja have all been the pillars of the bowling attack, but the likes of Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jayant Yadav and now, Kuldeep Yadav have also done well when the others haven’t stepped up.
On Day three of the fourth Test, three such pillars stood up to form a powerful bowling combination that wiped out the opposition and left them staring at defeat. And each had their own primary trait that made them so threatening.
Umesh’s pace was always his great strength, but he’s added a discipline and execution that has taken his game to a whole new level this season. When the pitch has little to offer, he still proves to be a thorn. As he had mentioned in a press conference earlier, there was initially a lot of talk of Umesh letting the pressure slip with a ball down leg or wide of off after a few good ones. But Umesh this season is like a bowling machine who only bowls to his plans. He has players in trouble with the new ball, but also wreaks havoc when reverse swing comes into play.
He had left David Warner and Matt Renshaw wondering if they had been magically transported back to a green WACA wicket. Having softened them up, he bowled the perfect outswingers to have them both caught by the keeper. And when the tail was just about beginning to wag, he came back with the old ball to break through.
After Umesh is done, Ashwin and Jadeja take over. Even when the pitch is not in their favour or when the batsmen have the upperhand, the spin duo is able to maintain a degree of control over proceedings. Jadeja was the pupil, but this season he has shown that he can be the master, too. So much so that many experts feel he’s the most valuable member of the Indian Test team.
“It feels good that people that I am one of the responsible players of this team. Someone, who can perform in any situation across all departments of the game. If someone works hard, it is with an aim to become a valuable player. My biggest achievement more than any Man of the Match or Man of the Series award is contributing in a winning cause.”
While Ashwin has been India’s big trump card, Jadeja’s consistency has pushed him into pole position slowly. His economy, combined with the ability to extract whatever little the pitch has to offer, makes him the kind of bowler to have on any kind of track.
Here, he picked up three wickets for just twenty four runs, but each of those wickets was planned well. Shaun Marsh stood upright and stiff due to his bad back. Jadeja got one to spin sharply past him and had him caught at forward short leg. For Pat Cummins, an attacking batsman, he knew his rewards lay in how much patience he had. He stayed put and after a long time offered a juicy volley outside off. Cummins drive, and Rahane took the edge at slip. The extra bounce in the pitch accounted for Steve O’Keefe.
Jadeja and Umesh Yadav turned in a stellar performance, and had the usually reliable Ashwin to lead from the front too. Ashwin has had a relatively lean spell this series. But such has been his impact this year, that even a match winning performance just two Tests prior to this performance puts the focus on him. However, he is never far away from a match-changing show. If Jadeja or Umesh are doing the trick, he is happy to play back up. If no one’s picking wickets, Ashwin somehow comes up with something up his sleeve.
On Monday, the three stood tall to leave Australia in dire straits. Back then, it was always India’s batsmen against the opposition’s bowlers. How things have changed now.