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Attitude and skill make it count for Indian pacers

IPL exposure key to stronger reserve bench for Team India
Mohammed Siraj.
Mohammed Siraj.
File picture

Sayak Banerjee   |   Calcutta   |   Published 20.08.21, 03:18 AM

A spinner with more than 400 wickets in cricket’s traditional format doesn’t feature in the India XI in back-to-back Tests. That’s almost beyond belief, considering India’s reliance on spinners for years along with the role they have played in India’s success in Test cricket.

Back in the 1990s and early 2000s, it was near unimaginable for the Indian team management to field an XI without Anil Kumble or Harbhajan Singh, two of the country’s most successful bowlers across formats, even in overseas Tests. Even six-seven years ago, during a Test series in England or Australia, an Indian line-up would often comprise more than one spinner with Ravichandran Ashwin being an automatic choice on most occasions.

The third and final Test versus South Africa in Johannesburg in early 2018 was one rare instance when India fielded an all-pace attack and won. Since then, there has only been progress as far as India’s fast bowling resources are concerned. The quicks today are potent enough to yank

out all the opposition wickets and make amends in case the batsmen fail, with the spinner in the side having a limited role to play.

The win in Brisbane versus Australia earlier in the year and the ongoing England tour have reflected so, indicating a change in the DNA of the side. So what exactly has brought about this change?

“Well, during our playing days as well, India always had the talent in terms of fast bowling. But the IPL, since its advent, has been a massive factor,” former South Africa head coach Ottis Gibson, now fast bowling coach of Bangladesh, told The Telegraph from Dhaka on Thursday.

“The IPL has brought in the best overseas coaches in Indian cricket. Stephen Fleming, Ricky Ponting and others in the coaching staff have brought in that western attitude and guided the pacers accordingly.

“Besides, these young pacers have had the opportunity to rub shoulders with the international stars, which is another big advantage for them. Previously, India did have one-odd good fast bowler, but now thanks to the IPL, there are so many coming up and strengthening India’s reserve bench,” the former West Indies quick added.

The attitude with which someone like Mohammed Siraj, one of India’s heroes at Lord’s earlier this week, walks into the team also matters, pointed out Paras Mhambrey, bowling coach of the India team that toured Sri Lanka last month.

“Four guys (quicks) on the ground are already performing and there are a few others who are waiting to replace them, which is a big thing for the team. The captain also knows that there’s the firepower in case he wants to have a different combination because he knows the team has a player who’s equally good to fit into the squad.

“It’s the attitude that these young pacers walk in with which matters,” Mhambrey, also an NCA bowling coach, said.

Not just the quartet (Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah and Siraj) that helped India to victory at Lord’s this week, but the team also has in its ranks an able seamer all-rounder like Shardul Thakur, who’s expected to be fit for the third Test at Headingley. Now, who would Shardul replace?

“It’s a tough call, but I wouldn’t change a winning combination, especially after how Shami and Bumrah batted (in the second innings) at Lord’s,” said former England pacer Isa Guha.

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