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Monday, February 1, 2021

With two debutants, India present the "most inexperienced attack" since 1880s

Commentators and Critics wrote them off but Team India has performed admirably recoiling after that disastrous 36 all out at Adelaide.

The 4th and Final test of the present Series started at Brisbane today . The Gabba is an icon of the Brisbane landscape and is the home ground for the Brisbane Lions AFL team and the Queensland Bulls state cricket team.  The 42,000 seat stadium boasts unrestricted views of the oval playing surface from all areas making it ideal to host international sporting and entertainment events.   Situated in the Brisbane suburb of Woolloongabba - it's shortened to the Gabba is a famous Cricket ground.  Gabba is a contraction of Woolloongabba, a suburb three kilometres east of the Brisbane central business district and a probable corruption of Wulunkoppa, an Aboriginal name for what was once a swampy parkland. 

34 years ago, on this a debutant, 19-year-old Indian legspinner Narendra Hirwani basked in glory at Chepauk in a Pongal test.  He bowled his side to a series-levelling victory over West Indies in Madras with eight wickets in each innings, and his match figures of 16 for 136 surpassing  the previous best on debut - Australian Bob Massie's 16 at Lord's in 1972 - by one run. .. .. today, two bowlers from Tamil Nadu had a dream debut, which perhaps was totally unplanned as they were not part of the original squad – but Team India plagued by injuries had to play them today.  Along side Hirwani, the other debutants in that 1987 test were – Ajay Sharma,  Phil Simmons and Woorkeri Venkat Raman. 

In the present Series – at Adelaide, Indian attack was Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami & Ravichandran Ashwin. Ishant Sharma who was to spearhead the attack could not play due to injury. At Melbourne in the 2nd test, Mohammed Siraj debuted bowling alongside Bumrah, Umesh, Ashwin & Ravindra Jadeja. At Sydney it was Navdeep Saini debut – and attack comprised of Bumrah, Siraj, Ash, Saini & Jadeja. Today at Brisbane, it was totally a new inexperienced bowling attack :  Mohammad Siraj (2); Shardul Thakur (1); Navdeep Saini (1); Natarajan (0) and Washington Sundar (0) .. .. would any Team consciously do that ?

It has been a dream coming true for both Natarajan and Washington Sundar.  Hailing from a small village in Salem from a poor family, Natarajan had been  picked as a net bowler.   Then an injury to Varun Chakravarthy meant a late call-up into the squad. ODI and T20I debuts followed. Though a limited-overs specialist, he still chose to hang around as a net bowler for the Test matches. Now he is one of only 301 men to have played Test cricket for India. Natarajan has two wickets on his first day of Test cricket. This is no less than a fairy tale, scenarios of dreams for young boys and girls who don't know the actual route to representing India. It is a great story, but Test cricket doesn't care for great stories. Stories are incidental.

Through an unprecedented combination of the pandemic and a spate of injuries, some of which might be related, India were reduced to playing Natarajan and Washington Sundar in a Test match. They perhaps even had information through their sophisticated tracking devices that an in-game injury couldn't be ruled out. Which is why they picked four quicks to cover both for the conditioning and the inexperience, and went ultra-defensive with their spinner ahead of Kuldeep Yadav to cover a batting base.  

The injury woes are not yet over … to that long list – Ashwin too joined and this morning speedster Navdeep Saini walked off middle.  Late in the day at the end of 80th over ,  Shardul Thakur walked off the field and was seen  flexing his leg as he joined the team dugout.   It remains to be seen whether the pacer was indeed injured or simply walked off due to a slight niggle in his leg. If Thakur’s absence from the field turns out to be extensive, the cricketer will be adding to India’s nightmare injury-struck campaign Down Under. Earlier in the morning,  Navdeep Saini also walked off the field after bowling just 7.5 overs. The 28-year-old, who made his Test debut last week at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG), complained of pain in his groin.

The news is : Marnus Labuschagne's century has piloted his side to 5-274 at stumps on day one of the series-deciding fourth test in Brisbane, where India's unheralded attack exposed Australia's early lack of ruthlessness. India's bowlers, boasting a combined 13 test wickets at the toss, are believed to be the most inexperienced attack that Australia have confronted since 1880. The tourists' injury crisis became bleaker with confirmation that spearhead Jasprit Bumrah (abdominal) and off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin (back) would be two of four enforced omissions.

The Australians apart from the home-turf had every advantage thus far, have resorted to some silly and idiotic methodologies including scuffle – yet Indians have fought till date.   The toss of the coin too fell Australia's way, allowing them to bat first on a track sporting uncharacteristic cracks on the first day - much to the surprise of their skipper. It also gave their prized quicks an extra day of rest after their unsuccessful toil recently on the last day of 3rd test.  Labuschagne, who made 108, said, "I'm definitely disappointed not to go on and get a really big score which would have put us in a better position as a team. We still take the position we're in." The mind is still willing for India but less so the body - though it was their hands that let them down most. Stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane may well wonder what could have been if he had held on to a regulation chance at gully when Labuschagne was on 37 - the first of his two lives. All-rounder Cameron Green, on 19, was also grassed.

Off-spinner Washington Sundar, drafted into the Indian XI after Ravi Ashwin became the tourists' latest casualty, sent the cricketing world into a spin when just after lunch he drifted a delivery into Smith's pads, the Australian flicking it straight to Rohit Sharma at short mid wicket. Smith, on 36, couldn't believe his misfortune, and trudged from the field almost as if he was hoping pity would be taken upon him and he could return.

Another interesting tussle on the cards – and expect the slightly more experienced Indian batting line up to show enough resilience !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar


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