Three slips and a gully waited as Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami kept running in, hoping to run through the Lankan tail for what seemed like a magic spell of Test cricket on the fifth evening of the first Test in Kolkata. Not to forget the 5-over spell from Umesh Yadav that saw Angelo Mathews walking back to the pavilion. To imagine Jadeja bowled one over while Ashwin was unused on the fifth day. It speaks volumes of this Indian pace attack’s capability to turn the match on its head given a slight assistance from the wicket.
Bad light saved the day for the Lankans as another couple of overs could have seen a dramatic collapse from Dinesh Chandimal’s side after they had already lost 7 wickets in 26 overs. Interestingly, not a single wicket fell to a spinner. More importantly, the 17 wickets to fall in the Lankan innings were all picked by pacers — for the first time in a Test in India, spinners had gone wicket-less. It somewhere summed up a process that started in 2015 when Virat Kohli took over as skipper and spelt out the need to play attacking cricket and try to win matches, a stark contrast to predecessor MS Dhoni and his Test leadership style.
Despite being a more than capable middle-order batsman, former India skipper Dhoni always liked the cushion of an extra batsman in the line-up and preferred playing four bowlers throughout his captaincy. But that safety-first attitude took a backseat in January 2015. New India skipper Virat Kohli made it clear that Team India was now playing to win and the only way one could win games in Test cricket was by picking 20 wickets. That saw the skipper back the five-bowler strategy along with chief coach Ravi Shastri. And a vital cog in the whole planning was new bowling coach Bharat Arun.
Arun first showcased his tactical prowess in 2015 during the Tri-series against Australia and England in Australia and the 2015 World Cup when he got the likes of Mohit Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami to use the slower ball bouncer to such good effect that it bamboozled opposition batsmen. It was their disciplined display that saw the team reach the semi-final of the showpiece event before hosts Australia showed them the door.
Things did fall apart after that as Anil Kumble was appointed chief coach after the World T20 and Arun was no longer part of the support staff. But the hours Arun spent with the likes of Umesh and Shami ensured that they rose to the challenge during the home series against England and Australia even as the wickets had zilch to offer to the pacers. In fact, such was Shami and later Umesh’s dominance that pace spearhead Ishant Sharma — with 218 wickets from 77 matches — was sidelined and has failed to make a return to the playing XI as Bhuvneshwar Kumar has made a remarkable return to the longest format.
In fact, hours before re-joining the Indian squad as bowling coach for the tour to Sri Lanka in July — after Ravi Shastri was appointed coach — Arun told CricketNext that this group of bowlers are special and it was a pleasure working with them.
“This is a very talented bunch and I am looking forward to working with them. The best part is that they have excellent work ethics and wish to keep learning,” he had said ahead of the team’s depature to the Emerald Isles.
And the boys have shown that they are currently the best in the country if not one of the best pace bowling battery in the world. While you have a Bhuvi to swing the ball, Shami has mastered the art of both swing and seam. And you can trust Umesh to toil day-in and day-out even when the pitch isn’t conducive to pace bowling. Yes, there was a Zaheer Khan before this and a Javagal Srinath before that, but they never had the striking partner that a Wasim Akram found in Waqar Younis or a James Anderson finds in Stuart Broad. They were the lone shining stars in a crowd which was full of spinners.
Bharat ArunBhuvneshwar Kumarind vs sl 2017mohammed shamiMS DhoniR AshwinRavi ShastriRavindra JadejaUmesh Yadavvirat kohli
First Published: November 21, 2017, 1:34 PM IST