Sunil Gavaskar: Indian pace trio of Bumrah, Shami, Siraj best in the business

India has in Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, and Mohammed Siraj, an attack to rival any other new ball attack in the game today.

Bumrah, Siraj and Shami (not in picture) have formed a formidable pace attack.   -  AP

There were two Test matches that began on Boxing Day but only one went the distance to the fifth day. Yes, the second day’s play in the India-South Africa game was washed out because of rain, else the game could well have finished on the fourth day. Still, it was a game that wasn’t as totally one-sided as the one between England and Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. 

England lost that game before lunch on day three which does tell you what a rout it was. Both the pitches, the one at Centurion and the one at MCG had something in it for the bowlers all the time and wasn’t the easiest to bat on but as KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal showed on day one if a batsman showed good judgment and patience, runs could be scored. It was their century-plus opening partnership that set the Indian innings up nicely and so despite losing the last seven wickets for only 55, the Indians still had over 300 runs which turned out to be more than enough to pressure the fragile South African batting. The South Africans were lucky that Jasprit Bumrah turned his ankle over and was able to bowl only seven overs in the first innings, else they could well have been bundled out for lesser than what they got.

How many overs is too many overs?  

Australia has skipper Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, and Josh Hazelwood as their new-ball attack, but India also has in Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, and Mohammed Siraj, an attack to rival any other new ball attack in the game today. That an experienced player like Ishant Sharma cannot get a look in tells you how good the Indian trio is. South Africa dearly missed Anrich Nortje, who would have given the Proteas attack just the extra pace that they needed on day one at Centurion. Having said that, Lungi Ngidi and Marco Jansen provided good support to Kagiso Rabada, who himself was a bit below par on day one and the Indians could thus run up a score of 272 for only three wickets on day one itself. South Africa didn't get the same kind of start in both innings though Dean Elgar played a captain's knock in the second innings that was not supported by anybody else. South Africa's batting didn't look impressive at all though Temba Bavuma batted resolutely in both innings. There doesn’t seem to be a century batsman in the South African side so unless their bowlers restrict India to less than 200 there is a good chance that weather permitting, India will win all three Test matches.

Test cricket, a connoisseur’s delight  

Australia has already won the Ashes and look set to complete a whitewash – the way most England batsmen apart from Joe Root and to a certain extent Dawid Malan has looked clueless against the bouncing ball.

The humiliating loss has encouraged calls for a total overhaul of the system in England from respected writers like Michael Atherton. The former England skipper has seldom, if ever, been as scathing in his columns as he has been after the abject surrender at the MCG and has also provided some thoughtful changes to the administrative structure of the England Cricket Board. He has also suggested changes to the first-class game and the white ball scheduling. One can agree with most of what he has suggested, but it's baffling why he has laid part of the blame on the sorry performance at the IPL doors. If players from other countries in the IPL, especially Australia, are playing so well then how come only England players can’t. Besides Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow, Chris Woakes, and Dawid Malan there aren’t others who are in the current England Test team and Malan has batted quite well. So, it’s hard to see where the IPL comes in and why it should be blamed. In any case, the England players in the IPL are released by their respective franchises to go and play whenever England has an international or Test match. These players miss the crucial end part of the IPL where teams are looking to qualify for the play-offs and then miss the play-offs too.

We saw during the India tour of England last summer that the technique of some of the England batsmen was questionable and none of them were playing in the IPL so maybe England should look more at the coaching at the junior level rather than blaming the IPL.

The last year has been most testing in health and other fronts and despite that, the Indian cricket team scaled new heights. Here's hoping that 2022 is a year they keep the winning streak and also win an ICC Trophy.

Happy sporting year to you dear readers.