They hurl bouncers when they want. They reverse it when they can. They boss around the batsmen. But most importantly, they know when to cut out the frills and be extremely disciplined. Welcome to the Indian bowling attack, especially the seam attack. Even if Bangladesh played over 100 overs, in both innings, there was never a phase where you could have made any accusations about this Indian attack. They weren’t profligate — nobody strayed in line or length and even on an immensely flat track in Hyderabad, despite refreshing resistance from Bangladesh, the result was never in doubt.
When was the last time three seamers showed such control over reverse swing and ability to surprise batsmen with bounce? Usually, there would be always a weak link or two in the attack. But of late, this attack has been coming along rather nicely.
Exhibit A was Ishant Sharma. For someone who has played over 70 Tests, his bowling has rarely shown much maturity. His supporters have often cited him as unlucky but that tag sat uneasy and had begun to look more like an excuse. In the recent past, though, things have been changing. There was a Test in Sri Lanka and at Lord’s, where he got a clutch of wickets. The commonality in both, as the one against Bangladesh in Hyderabad, was his aggressiveness. He bowled a slew of bouncers in both those away Tests, steaming in and hurling projectiles as fast as he can but also with great accuracy. In this Test, too, he has bowled with a lot of heart — bouncers, reverse-swing, and spot-on with his lines.
In the zone
The way he took out Bangladesh’s top-score Mahmudullah was quite something. The context made it even more interesting. Mahmudullah is not only playing for his spot in Test team but if he could have wriggled out with a big knock, he could even be made the next Test captain. In some ways, he has been the Ishant of Bangladesh. Talented and hardworking with not a whiff of controversy about him but he hasn’t been consistent. And here was Ishant, not quite playing for his spot in the squad, but he had to show he still had it to stay in reckoning when Mohammad Shami comes back. He got the ball to reverse, he had it spit up from a lifeless track and he hit the zone outside off almost at will. Something he hasn’t always managed to do in the past.
Mahmudullah, despite the lean patch he is in, had tackled reverse pretty decently in the first innings when Umesh Yadav was in midst of a dream spell. In the second innings, too, he did a good job of resisting the Indians. He is one of those with pretty uncomplicated technique and reminds one of a young Hansie Cronje. Staying adjacent to the line, he got the bat down in time to push and punch his way against the seamers. Against the spinners, he shows excellent instinct when to attack and when to defend. At least yesterday. And so it was upto Ishant to remove him. He honed in with great precision and lots of heart. On a dead track, he got on to bounce at the body and Mahmudullah ended up top edging his hook to fine-leg for a catch. With it Bangladesh’s back was broken.
A lesson from No.1 to No.9
“They know how to bowl in the fifth day, which is why they are the No 1 Test side. It was a lesson for us,” Mushfiqur Rahim said after the match.
Rahim too had tried his best. If you believe the murmurs coming from the camp, his captaincy future was at stake here. He pulled Ishant for a six but got into tangle against R Ashwin. There wasn’t much turn on offer but the Indians wisely chose not to try too hard and just stick to basics: and let the match-pressure do its claustrophobic effect on the batsmen. In an effort to disperse the field, Rahim went down the track to drive through extra cover. He tried to repeat it again in the same over but Ashwin had slowed it up and dragged back the length- and miscued hit was caught at mid-off by Ravindra Jadeja.
It was Jadeja who had struck the first blow–the only occasion when the pitch came into play. It got one to land on a rough patch and Shakib Al Hasan wasn’t prepared for what followed. Turn, bounce, gloved, and gone. The man who was being criticized for playing rash violent shots had a non-violent end. He didn’t even get his bat to the ball.
The three important wickets were Shakib, Rahim and Mahmudullah and even though the rest did offer fight – Kamirul Islam lasted 70 balls following his effort in New Zealand where he made 2 from 63 balls – the result was never in doubt, as India gobbled up the one-off Test by 208 runs, their sixth successive Test series win on the spin. Kohli also stretched his unbeaten streak to 19 Tests, bettering the accomplishment of Sunil Gavaskar (1976-80).
Bangladesh know where they lack in Test cricket. As Rahim put it: “Look it’s a difficult to play Test cricket consistently over five days. In ODIs, its about a day, if you turn up and do the right things well, you can end up winning. But Test cricket is a different ball game. There are lot of areas we need to improve.” But it’s team that shown a lot of heart. And it won’t be a surprise if Bangladesh win the series in Sri Lanka next month.