India were comprehensively outbowled here in Australia in much the way they were in England. On both occasions, India had their moments but moments don't win you games. Relentless attack does. And India didn't have the armoury or, dare I say it, the know-how to do it.
Zaheer Khan was once again India's best bowler and for sheer skill he has few peers in the world game. He swung the Kookaburra ball as he did the Duke and his ability to set up batsmen, especially left-handers, of whom there has been an extraordinary crop in recent times, was wonderful to watch. But Zaheer now needs to be handled carefully and the opposition knows that. They aim to play him out (except of course for Warner at Perth!) and reap a harvest at the other end.
It was the other end that India are struggling with and I say this in spite of the strides that Umesh Yadav took on this tour. Clearly, he wants to be a fast bowler and anyone who advises him otherwise doesn't have India's interests at heart. He bowled a good outswinger, has a yorker and a decent bouncer but the length of the ball is still not at his command. And so he leaked runs but worryingly, when he was getting his figures tarnished, he seemed to be lonely at the top of his run. The great Wasim Akram had Imran Khan mentoring him from mid-off and mid-on till he learnt to think a player out. Yadav doesn't have that support yet. But he was one of the real pluses of this tour.
Ravichandran Ashwin showed a lot of heart but he needs the surface to be his ally just yet and Ishant Sharma continued to plug away neither taking too many wickets nor really looking like he would run through a team. The strength of a system is determined by how well it nurtures and develops its talent and if India lets Ishant go, it will be a severe indictment of that system. To be honest, India doesn't understand fast bowling but to win consistently you need to.
India needs not an occasional Ishant and Yadav, not an occasional spell from them, but a production line of such bowlers. It is a problem but one, I greatly fear, that is not perceived to be so.
In 1932 a group of romantics led by a benevolent leader descended upon Lord's to play a Test match for India against a country that still colonised it. I haven't figured that out honestly, for it means that India was regarded as an independent Test-playin Continue reading More »The weight of history and the lure of the future