With another WTC final at stake, visitors open first of six matches seeking to rediscover their mojo with the ball
Published: 14th December 2022 07:53 AM | Last Updated: 14th December 2022 07:53 AM | A+A A-
R Ashwin and Rahul Dravid
CHENNAI: Early exits in the 2021 T20 World Cup and 2022 Asia Cup. Did not make the final of the 2022 T20 World Cup. It is no secret that there are questions about India’s approach to white-ball cricket. That said, the indisputable fact is that when it comes to the longer format, no team has been as successful as India. At least not since 2016. That they have the best win-loss ratio of 2.411 (0.73 more than the next team on the list) is a testament to that.
While there have been some prolific batting performers, winning Test matches and series comes down to taking 20 wickets. In the last six years, it is something the Indian team have excelled at. Five bowlers have taken over 100 wickets in this period and the sixth R Ashwin tops the list with 266 scalps. India’s rise to the top in Test cricket in this period is no coincidence. In fact, it is the direct result of the combination of India’s bowling bullying most batting orders, with India’s batters stepping up from time to time.
That said, 2022 hasn’t been the same. Since the start of this year, they have not taken 20 wickets in an overseas Test. Whether South Africa or England, the maximum they have been able to take is 13 in a match. And some poor phases of play from the batters meant they have lost all three overseas Tests this year.
Now, Bangladesh’s conditions are not alien to India. However, thanks to injuries and transition, they do not have their prolific pace attack at full strength. Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah are injured. This brings the focus to Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Siraj, especially the former. So much so that bowling coach Paras Mhambrey called him the spearhead of the pace attack, and rightly so.
Since the start of 2016, no pacer has thrived in subcontinental conditions as much as Umesh. With 75 wickets in 23 Tests, he has been the best pacer on Asian surfaces. With the second and third names on the leaderboard Shami and Ishant Sharma not available, he will have to lead the pace attack and take Siraj along. “Umesh becomes the spearhead for us right now. He has a lot of experience ahead of this Test. And happy (with) the way Siraj has progressed as well. In terms of combination, a lot is expected of Umesh, but it is a great opportunity for someone like Siraj as well,” Mhambrey added on Tuesday.
And without a doubt, the spin attack will likely have Ashwin and Axar Patel who are expected to make the most of the conditions. The spinners have always dominated against Bangladesh and it is essential for the off-spinner and Axar to do the same for India to have a good series.
Yes, Indian batters will face their own challenge in countering spin and putting a big total on the board. But as it has been the case for the better part of the past decade, it is the bowlers who have consistently put India in a winning position. They did the heavy lifting in taking India to the final of the inaugural World Test Championship. This series is going to be no different and the team management would be hoping that they get back to the habit of taking 20 wickets. For there is another WTC final at stake.
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