Familiar failings harrow India

Familiar failings harrow India

Batsmen showed spunk against Australia, but pacers were a big disappointment

Familiar failings harrow India

The statistics show that the four-Test series for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy was a forgettable one for bowlers from either side.

Just crunch these numbers. The aggregate of 5,870 runs scored by India and Australia is the most ever in a Test series of four or fewer matches. On 24 occasions bowlers conceded over 100 or more runs in an innings spread over four Tests.

This was the first time in a series both teams have stacked up 400 or more runs in the first innings of each Test. Steven Smith broke Don Bradman’s record for the highest number of runs in a series between India and Australia while Virat Kohli set a new Indian record for the same, surpassing Rahul Dravid.

What about the bowlers? Each of the 131 wickets taken collectively by Indian and Australian bowlers came at the cost of almost 44 runs. There were just three five-wicket hauls in the entire series, two from Australia and one from India. If a century were to be equated with a five-wicket haul, then bowlers have been no match for the batsmen. Between the two teams as many as 15 hundreds were scored, eight of them coming from the blades of Smith and Kohli. 

Despite the heavy run gathering from batsmen from either side, there were results in the first two Tests. India lost those two Tests which they could have won with some pluck and a little bit of luck. The visitors managed to draw the last two which Australia threatened to win. And that’s where the difference between the two sides was. Australia were good enough to win from losing positions while India could only push for draws.

Mediocre effort
It’s a rudimentary knowledge that to win a Test match, you need to take 20 wickets but the Indian bowlers managed to take all 10 wickets in an Australian innings only twice – in the first innings of Brisbane and Melbourne Tests. In happy departure from the last few tours where the batting has been embarrassingly inept, the young batsmen found ways to pile on runs but the bowling, as a unit, continued to be depressingly mediocre. The lack of effort was frustrating and the inability to maintain consistency for more than one spell was glaring.

Before the start of the series, India had talked up the attack which comprised of two genuine fast bowlers – Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav -- capable of hurling the cherry at 145-plus and two pacemen – Ishant Sharma and Mohammad Shami -- who could swing the ball at 135-plus. Another crafty bowler, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, became available only for the final Test here and there’s nothing much to write about his bowling.

How good did they prove in comparison to Ausstralian bowlers? Aaron is fearsomely quick but he lacked the precision of Mitchell Johnson. Yadav can swing the ball but he didn’t have the relentlessness of Ryan Harris to keep the ball in one area. Shami was impressive only in patches compared to Josh Hazlewood, who playing his first Test series showed remarkable consistency and skill for a rookie. Ishant Sharma was the best of the lot but he is far from what the team management wants us to believe – a leader of the pack. 

Skipper Kohli was gung-ho about the Indian pace attack at the beginning of the series but by the end of it, the reality had begun to don upon him. The lack of willingness to push when legs were aching and shoulders were hurting appeared to have irked him.

“It might be a mixture of a lot of things,” he said when asked what ailed the Indian quicks -- lack of skill or effort or experience? “The skill is there but you need composure and character to go out there and say, ‘I’m tired, but I need to take two wickets for my team, so I need to bowl at the same pace as my first spell.’ That’s where the character counts -- when you’re tired and you’re down and your team expects you to step up. That’s something we’ve not been able to do in the last couple of years.

At Lord’s, Ishant did it for us. We need guys stepping up with more performances like that to win Test matches. Those crucial moments after tea, at the end of a day’s play, we need to strike and we haven’t been able to. It’s to do with wanting to bowl that second and third spell for the team and that’s something we need to consistently work on, tell the guys to step up and bowl their hearts out for the team,” he explained.

Kohli also spoke of the need to unearth fresh fast bowling talent with attributes that he spoke of. Two Tests, and the skipper already appears to be losing his top. Spare a thought for MS Dhoni, who had to contend with the same attack and a poorer batting.