One of the prime reasons for being hopeful that India will finally break the jinx and win a series in South Africa and Australia is that the team has an attack that can cope with all conditions and pitches. Not in a long time has India had such a balanced attack, and when that happens, there is every chance of taking the 20 wickets needed to win a Test. India’s batting is also looking really good and more importantly settled and capable of scoring runs even on fast, bouncy pitches.
It’s the new ball attack that ignites the hope that India can meet fire with fire. India now has bowlers who can consistently bowl at the 145-kmph mark, and that gives the team the fire-power to bounce back whatever the opposition. In Mohammad Shami and Umesh Yadav, India has bowlers who can not only bowl quick but also swing the ball and get the early wickets. There is also Bhuvneshwar Kumar who, with his improved batting, makes a strong case to be considered the seam bowling all-rounder in the team. He will, in all probability, open the bowling since he and Shami can move the ball really well. Umesh may not be as great a mover of the ball as Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, but when he gets his line right he can be an awkward customer to face. There is also Ishant Sharma, vastly experienced and the senior bowler in the team, but if India goes with three seamers then he may well miss out, unless his form going into the tour is such that he is picking wickets by the dozen.
India generally takes a fifth new ball bowler and Jasprit Bumrah, who is bowling quick and gets the white ball to move, should be the one to take that spot. If he can move the white ball so much, then he could do even more with the red ball that swings far longer than the white.
For some strange reason India does not seem to get quality net bowlers overseas, and so its own bowlers get overworked in the nets. So a good preparation would be to get some net bowlers organised from now itself. Whenever teams come to India there are plenty of good young bowlers around and they bowl to the visiting team. For their efforts some of them get a touring team’s training shirt or training cap or something like a memento, and of course the unavoidable selfies. However, when India goes overseas the net bowlers have to be paid, which is quite ridiculous considering the Indian net bowlers get nothing. So the Indian administrators must ensure that their counterparts overseas provide enough net bowlers for the Indian batsmen to practise.
As it looks now, India will not be getting a practice game before the first Test in South Africa, and that could be a bit of an issue since the team will be going into a Test match on a bouncy pitch after having played on flat pitches in India. Unfortunately, the schedule was announced way too late for a couple of practice games to be arranged, and that is an area which hopefully will be looked at for future tours where it is crucial to get some good match practice and get a little used to the conditions there.
India’s cricket calendar is always crowded, but therein lies the opportunity to make the difference by planning well, which will help the Indian team better its performances away from the sub-continent. There is nothing quite like forward planning and preparation, and with the skill sets that Indian players have that will be a huge boost to their performances overseas.
The tour of England is a long one, with five Test matches. The last time, in 2014, the team started well but then faltered. So it’s important that enough matches are arranged between the Test matches so that out-of-form players and fringe players get those games to get better and be ready for the next Test match.
There is too much loose talk about tiredness. These are young and fit players for whom playing should not be a problem at all. What they need is the backup to get fully ready for the big games, and that has to be provided for by the administrators.
The year 2018 could be the one when India will do what has not been achieved before — that is win a Test series in South Africa and later in the year in Australia. That will complete the cycle of wins in every Test-playing country in the world.
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