12 wins in the last 14 Tests show the excellent form India has had under Virat Kohli's leadership. One of the main aspects of Kohli's captaincy is his effective bowling changes, barring the first Test against Australia. In the recently concluded match against Bangladesh, Virat Kohli took out Ravindra Jadeja, who had just got a wicket, and brought in Umesh Yadav to torment Taijul Islam with pace and bounce. Due credit must be given to the bowlers as well, as they've efficiently done their work when called upon.
In the three-match Test series against New Zealand, barring the first Test where India had to dig in, victories came easily with Ashwin and Jadeja doing most of the damage. Against England, the Indian bowlers had their work cut out (initially, at least). The English batsmen were resilient and it was tough to get them out. The likes of Cook, Ali, and Bairstow made life tough for the bowlers, forcing them to resort to alternative tactics to dismiss them. Though India battered England 4-0 at the end of the series, one has to applaud the effort the Indian bowlers put in.
Modern day cricket revolves around with the hosts preparing a pitch according to their strengths. The Nagpur Test against South Africa is a testimony to that. Indian spinners picked all 20 wickets and the match ended in just three days. But the pitches in the Tests against England and in the one-off Test against Bangladesh gave the bowlers plenty to ponder.
Ravindra Jadeja, who is a stump-to-stump bowler, altered his length and consistently bowled on the good length area in the fifth Test against England in Chennai. The change paid dividends as he went on to dismiss seven English batsmen, giving India an improbably large victory.
In the one-off Test against Bangladesh, Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma bowled with vigour. The ball started to reverse just in the 14th over of the day and Bangladesh, being a sub-continent side, struggled to score runs on a flat deck, with Shakib-al-Hasan saying that Umesh Yadav's spell was the best spell he has ever faced in Test cricket.
The duo used their skills and bowled more fuller than their counterparts. It's a well-known fact that Indian seamers are much more aware of the conditions, but to continue with the same line and length for a long period shows consistency and precision.
Having a rank turner has always proved to be costly for India. In the match against Australia at Pune, the pitch started to offer turn and bounce for the spinners right from Day 1. Steve O’Keefe utilised this to the fullest extent and eventually ended up picking 12 wickets in the match.
Steve O’Keefe and Nathan Lyon bowled much fuller than the Indian spinners in both innings, which made the batsmen play. Both Ashwin and Jadeja bowled well, but the duo didn’t make the batsmen play every ball. Jadeja kept on bowling on a good length, continuing his tactics from the Chennai Test. That backfired even though he bowled a plethora of rippers.
This is a testimony to the fact that having something favourable to our own strengths can also turn into our Achilles Heel. The same happened against Australia in 2004 when Michael Clarke wrecked the Indian batting lineup in 2004, picking up six wickets for just nine runs.
So, what does this do to the Indian bowlers? Instead of having one-sided matches, Indian pitch curators must give both the teams equal chances of winning the match. Bowlers now have to think of different ways to get the batsmen out, something which will prove to be beneficial when the team travels abroad. Pitches in Australia, England and South Africa will suit the pacers more than it does for the spinners. This is when all the hard work they do on flat tracks pays dividends. The pacers will think about exploiting the batsmen’s weaknesses.
This makes the bowlers reach their full potential and thereby makes them better bowlers in the longer term. Kudos to the curators who prepare pitches which makes the bowlers think, and to the bowlers who have excelled in picking up 20 wickets!
Fast. Lite. Innovative. Shareable. Download our HW Cricket app!