“Hence, it is crystal clear that unlike their previous tours on favourable conditions, here the Indian bowlers have to raise their game and make things happen in order to be part of their country’s first-ever Test series winning team in Australia”
There has been a plenty of anticipation surrounding India’s ongoing tour of Australia. Considering the significantly depleted and inexperienced Aussie batting line-up as well as the top-notch track record of the Indian bowling unit in the recent past, there is a general conception amongst the fans that Ishant Sharma and co. will have a cakewalk this time around in Down Under. However, a deeper analysis is bound to burst this bubble and will show that in this series with the Kookaburra ball the task of bowling the opposition out twice in a match, will be much stiffer compared to their recent tours of England or South Africa.
Well, there is no denying that India have landed in Australia with one the best bowling attacks they have ever had. In the past two years, this unit averages 25.20 with the ball in hand, their lowest ever in the same time frame prior to a Test series in Australia and the fifth lowest of any team visiting Down Under since 1988 (Data courtesy: CricViz). The hit the deck bowlers like Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav seem ideal for the bouncy Australian pitches. And the visitors have three quality spinners – Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav – to back up the pace attack.
However, for any visiting bowling attack, Australian conditions posses a completely different challenge altogether.
When it comes to offering sideways movement, Australia is nowhere close to what these Indian bowlers had experienced earlier in England or in South Africa. The spicy tracks, as well as the overhead conditions in those countries, are far more conducive to pace bowling than the batting-friendly wickets in this part of the world. Hence, the average score in the first innings in most of the mainstream Australian Test venues are significantly higher compared to any other SENA country.
And most importantly, the Kookaburra tends to do a lot less in the air and off the pitch than it’s English counterpart Dukes. In the recent series in England, we have seen fast bowlers keeping the batsmen on their toes by generating an alarming amount of sideways movement, even with the 40-50-over old ball. At times the lethal combination of seam and swing looked literally unplayable and barring Virat Kohli, batsmen from both teams struggled to cope up with this challenge.
Nevertheless, in Australia, it is all about the new ball. After first 20 odd overs, the Kookaburra stops moving and at times it gets quite difficult to dislodge a set batsman. Hereafter getting his eye in, a batter can even play through the first line of the ball with ease. So, here the bowlers need to have new tricks in their armoury to get wickets in the middle-overs.
And when it comes to bowling spin, it is always hard to grip a Kookaburra as its seam feds away quickly. Especially the finger spinners always have this complaint. Perhaps that’s why getting breakthroughs in the middle gets even more difficult while playing this particular ball.
Keeping all these aspects in mind, on this tour, the Indian bowlers have to attack the batsmen more with the new ball. In the quest of wickets, they can afford to pitch the ball further up the in the good length area to lure the batsmen playing those drives. Yes, runs may leak in this process, but it should not bother Kohli and the team management as long they are getting 3-4 scalps in that 20-over phase.
Furthermore, if we take a look at the venues for this four-Test series, at least on a couple of occasions – the new stadium in Perth, which will host its first-ever Test and the Melbourne Cricket Ground, where we witnessed a boring drawn Ashes Test last year – both teams will encounter drop-in pitches, which are expected to be extremely batting friendly. And even without their two top batsmen – Steven Smith and David Warner, Australian batting can frustrate the Indians.
Hence, it is crystal clear that unlike their previous tours on favourable conditions, here the Indian bowlers have to raise their game and make things happen in order to be part of their country’s first-ever Test series winning team in Australia.