Kumble: 'Our sole aim is to take 20 wickets'

"We only focus on how our bowling attack can claim 20 wickets on a case-by-case basis, rather than think about our spin and pace departments separately," India's coach Anil Kumble said ahead of India's first Test against England.

Anil Kumble was vocal about Hardik Pandya's value to the team.   -  K. Bhagya Prakash

India’s coach Anil Kumble has reiterated that the thrust of the team management will be a horses-for-courses policy with an aim to get 20 wickets in a Test. Ahead of the first Test against England here, Kumble said the team combination for the match had not been decided, and expressed satisfaction at the success of India’s bowling attack chosen for the six Tests played since the commencement of the West Indies tour.

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“We only focus on how our bowling attack can claim 20 wickets on a case-by-case basis, rather than think about our spin and pace departments separately. It doesn’t matter whether the wickets arrive via our spinners or fast bowlers or part-timers,” he said.

“I’m happy that all our bowlers in the six Tests (in the West Indies tour and against New Zealand) have contributed in getting the opposition all out in every innings for victories, barring the Test in Jamaica,” Kumble added.

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The England tour will feature the fourth India-England Test series since 2011. India has lost to England in all three previous contests, the last one in 2014, a 3-1 thrashing away from home. Kumble, however, ruled out the possibility of past results having any bearing in the coming Tests.

“It is a totally different England team that is coming, it is a new Indian team that is playing against England. Yes, there have been some players who have played in the last series, but it is a totally different series. For us, what is really good is that we have been playing Test cricket, right from West Indies onwards. It has been seven Test matches in a row, and we have seen the development of our team in the last seven matches and that is healthy. Every player is looking forward to this five-Test series. For us, immediate performances matter, and that’s the confidence we would like to take to the series,” Kumble said.

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Among the new members in the squad is Hardik Pandya, the all-rounder, who has been chosen despite relative inexperience in first-class cricket. Kumble elaborated on the thinking behind his inclusion for the series.

“Hardik is an extremely talented player. Yes, the shorter format is totally different. But I think all of us have seen the potential that Hardik has. We could see that he is a quality player and that’s what we have backed him in this series for. We got him into the Test squad because we know the value of an all-rounder; we understand the importance of a fifth bowler. If someone can bowl at 140 kph and give you the option of batting really well lower down in the order, that’s a great option to have. So, we’re really looking at how Hardik develops.” he said.

Kumble also spoke of the chances of another prospective debutant in Test cricket, Karun Nair.

“Karun has done all the hard yards in domestic cricket of scoring runs heavily and also regularly. There was a little bit of a talk of not performing for India A in Australia. But we are looking at consistency, and he has done all the hard work and that’s why he was a part of the New Zealand squad as well. Since then, he has gone into Ranji Trophy and got runs, got hundreds. It’s opened an opportunity for Karun because Rohit [Sharma] is now injured,” Kumble said.

“Karun is certainly someone we have kept a close eye on and backed him for all the good things he has done in domestic cricket. I’m sure he will get an opportunity, and when that happens we will back him to go and get the runs for India as well as he has done for Karnataka,” he added.

Kumble empathised with the players who have suffered injuries that could see the likes of Karun or Hardik debuting.

“I’ve been through that as a player, so I know how it feels when a player sits out and watches another player playing. Of course, all of us want the team to do well and the player who has been replaced also to do well, but having said that, I think it’s important that we keep all of them in the loop. It’s unfortunate that someone like K. L. Rahul is missing out, but we’re hoping that he will come back soon. So is Bhuvi (Bhuvneshwar Kumar), so is Shikhar [Dhawan], it’s unfortunate that he hasn’t recovered. It is a big blow to Rohit as well.”

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