By Khurram Habib
New Delhi, Jan 14 — Pace bowler Jasprit Bumrah was never more needed by the Indian team as it is now, for the fourth and final Test at the Gabba that begins on Friday.
The right-arm pace bowler, who is suffering from an abdominal strain and is a doubtful starter, is required not just because he is the only pacer left from the battery that won India the Test series last time in Australia in 2018-19. He is also needed because he is the only one who can more easily adjust to the length needed on the Gabba wicket.
India are playing a Test at the Gabba after a gap of six years. In the current squad, there are only four players from the team that played at the venue back in 2014 and three of those are batsman – Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma.
The only bowler who has played at the Gaba is R Ashwin, a spinner.
It leaves the India camp without a fast bowler who has bowled on one of the most ideal but also tricky wickets for a pace bowler in Australia.
Former India pace bowler Irfan Pathan describes the Gabba wicket challenging but one where Bumrah could most easily adjust among all the Indian bowlers including those that have returned home injured.
“On Australian surfaces like the Gabba, the ideal length is a bit more towards the batsmen — say something like 25 inches more towards the batsman than on the wickets we get here at home. That is where I think Bumrah is crucial for India. He has been successful in Australia because he bowls a more fuller length (towards the batsman). The length needed at Brisbane (or Perth) would come much easier to him than to any other Indian bowler (including those who are injured). He will just have to adjust only a little,” Pathan told IANS.
Bumrah normally pitches the ball just seven-eight feet before the batsman making it difficult for the batsman to play off the front foot as well as go on the back foot. He can bowl the yorker almost at will. So for him to make that adjustment is likely to be easier.
Pathan said the wicket in Gabba is different from others in Australia like Adelaide, where the surface tends to be more India-like and the good length shifts a bit back towards the bowler. Hence surfaces like Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney, which had no assistance for bowlers this week, are more easy to adjust to for the Indians.
Former India pacer Manoj Prabhakar elaborated the difficulty in adjusting.
“When I toured Australia for Tests (the first and only time), I realised many of the deliveries that would have fetched me leg-before wicket in India were going above the stumps there. So I had to adjust accordingly and pitch the ball further up,” he said.
In the series Prabhakar played in Australia – in 1991-92, there were no specialist coaches, no video analysts and no frequent overseas tours. So it left the players to mostly learn things on their own through the tour.
Now though there is the benefit of data and specialized coaching.
However, the question is if it will be enough to rev up the likely rookie pace attack.