Talk about ‘mismatch’, and you may invariably refer to the phrase David and Goliath; talk about it in the context of Cricket, and India vs Australia at the Gabba in 2021 may come close. That is if India manages to do the unthinkable, but that’s for later. For now - India batted and bruised - handed out a debut to T Natarajan for the Brisbane Test, which Australia has never lost since 1988, and with three of their frontline seamers succumbing to injuries, two-test old Mohammad Siraj finds himself in the unlikely position of leading India pace at on a bowling paradise.
Alongside Siraj is Navdeep Saini, who made his debut in the third Test at the SCG at the expense of Umesh Yadav; Shardul Thakur, whose only Test appearance before today was 10 balls he bowled in his debut in 2018 against West Indies and Natarajan on his debut. That makes a combined experience of 3 Test and 10 balls and 13 wickets for the Indian quartet. And they will be up against a pace quartet of Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, and allrounder Cameron Green. Even if you leave out Green, a rookie with zero wickets in three tests, the other three - now often being referred to as one of Australia’s greatest pace trio and in the same breath as Dennis Lille, Jeff Thompson, Glenn McGrath et all - have 617 wickets between them in Test cricket. That’s 13 vs 617 - If this is not a mismatch then what is?
This Indian playing XI is the least experienced in terms of wickets taken since the Lord’s Test in 1946 against England where Lala Amarnath’s four and CK Nayudu’s one constituted for five wickets. In today’s game, Siraj 7, Saini’s 4, and Rohit Sharma’s - believe it or not - 2 constitutes 13. But, be that as it may, India have started well with Siraj removing David Warner in the first over of the match and Thakur getting rid of Marcus Harris off his first ball of the match. T Natarajan, a fairytale story in itself, too showed a good account of himself in the opening spell he bowled.
Total wickets between India XI today is only 13 (Siraj 7, Saini 4 and Rohit 2). It is lowest for India to start the match since Lord’s 1946 when the combined sum of wickets was 5 (four Lala Amarnath and 1 CS Nayudu). #AusvInd— Mazher Arshad (@MazherArshad) January 14, 2021
India found themselves in this predicament after Jasprit Bumrah was ruled out of the 4th Test after Abdominal strain. India had already lost Mohammad Shami to a forearm fracture during the Adelaide debacle and then Umesh Yadav at Melbourne after hobbling off the field. India’s premier bowlers’ Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar did not make the squad owing to injuries. Even though both have recovered and are featuring in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy 2021, due to Covid-19 travel restrictions and bio-bubble protocols, they could not be flown in as replacements. BCCI did announce four net bowlers in a jumbo squad for the tour down under in Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Kartik Tyagi, Ishan Porel, and Natarajan. While Tyagi played one of the practice games, Nagarkoti did not travel with the team at all while Porel was flown back mid-tour owing to a hamstring strain. Washington Sundar, part of India’s white-ball squad, stayed back, and well, he became India’s 301st Test player.
At the Brisbane Cricket Ground, Woolloongabba, which has traditionally been a pacer-friendly wicket, in the last ten Tests played, pacers have accounted for 223 wickets, and spinners a mere 66. And by all accounts, the odds are up against India and this greenhorn pace attack going up against the mighty Australian trio at their bastion. Then again, India had their backs ‘nailed’ to the wall at SCG and they did the unthinkable. Lightning could strike again, this time courtesy Siraj, Saini, Thakur, and Natarajan.