The series against West Indies is done now. Six days of cricket yielding a 2-0 result that takes India to a record-equaling ten successive series wins at home. The focus now shifts to Australia and it looks quite likely that the 18-year old opener Prithvi Shaw and the fast bowler who rarely plays overseas –
Umesh Yadav – are a part of the plan.
Virat Kohli wants to make India’s bowling their strength. And he wouldn’t mind a batting line-up that can take it to Mitchell Starc and company when the Tests begin in Adelaide. He felt Umesh gave India the pace a bowling attack needs to be effective in those conditions and Shaw…well here are the exact words from the India captain: “I don’t think any of us were even 10 percent of what he is at 18-19.”
“The guy has grabbed his chance beautifully. He looks like someone that can get you off to the kind of start that you require, especially to make the first mark in any series that you play. So from that point of view it’s great to have a guy who’s so fearless. And he’s not reckless. He’s very confident about his game. You might feel like he’s going to nick off one now. But he hardly nicks the ball. That we saw in England as well when he was batting in the nets. He was really attacking but in control throughout which is a very rare quality against the new ball. To play so many shots and be in control of all of them is a great sign.”
Praise for Umesh, who became only the third fast bowler to pick up a ten-wicket haul at home, flowed just as freely. “It’s good to have all guys confident and raring to go because four Tests in Australia can be brutal because the ball doesn’t do much like England. You have to come in and run in all day, bowl in the right areas, with pace. So I think from that point of view, Umesh is right up there to be featuring in Australia because he’s got the pace. He’s got the fitness levels to run in all day to pick us wickets at crucial times and he gets good bounce as well.
“Not many people realise but he’s a very very talented bowler. He can bowl you unplayable deliveries every now and then. He’ll bowl a ball which you feel like you couldn’t have done anything else apart from getting out. It’s just that he’s gaining more confidence about his own game, especially in Test cricket, I think he’s come a long way and he understands his bowling really well.
“It’s a great sign, as I said, to have four guys bowling so well who can pick up wickets. That’s something we want to keep as a consistent part of our team. Obviously the batting is something that we’re learning from the last tour we want to improve on collectively. But bowling is something we need to keep as a major strength in order for us to feel like we have a chance to win a series when we travel away from home.”
The two top-scorers from the series for India were aged 18 and 20 and Kohli took that as a positive as well. “We were looking at the youngsters playing with a lot of freedom. Prithvi was outstanding. Rishabh was really fearless. Areas that they need to work on, they’ll obviously be spoken to in that regard. Overall both those guys are really good, solidifying their place in the team and understanding how to play at this level. I know the conditions might not be as challenging as they might get in future. But in Test cricket the first and most important thing is confidence and understanding that you can score runs in Test level. I think from that point of view we’re very happy that they’ve taken their chances so well. Getting Man of the Series [like Prithvi Shaw] in the first series regardless of where we play or how you play, its an outstanding achievement.”
Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.