The under-fire Indian Test team got some form of support from former Indian skipper MS Dhoni and former Pakistan speedster Shoaib Akhtar. While Mahi feels that Indian bowling, epecially pacers was one of the few positives to pick despite the drubbing handed out by South Africa, Akhtar reckons that there is still a long way to go before India becomes a good fast bowling nation.
Virat Kohli’s world no.1 Indian team are trailing 0-2 in the three-match series after losses in Cape Town and Centurion. The third and final Test is scheduled to be held in Johannesburg from January 24.
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Talking about the current scenario of the SA series, MS said, “I would say look at the positives. To win a Test match you need 20 wickets and we have taken 20 wickets. If you can’t take 20 wickets, what is the next thing? You look to draw a Test match. How you can draw a Test match is by giving fewer runs and by scoring runs.”
Dhoni pointed out that the Indian bowlers are taking 20 wickets in a match is a sign that the side is never too far from a win. He said, “If you are not able to get 20 wickets, you can’t win a Test match irrespective of whether you are playing in India or you are playing outside. But that is the big positive. We are taking 20 wickets. This means we are always in a position to win a Test match. Once you start scoring runs, you are there.”
After a long gap, India has developed a sizeable pool of pacers and five of them — Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Mohammad Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah – are with the squad in South Africa.
Talking about the attack, Shoaib said, “I would say they are gradually improving and there is a long way to go before India can call itself a good fast bowling nation. Five years ago, I had thought that Varun Aaron, Umesh Yadav, and Mohammad Shami will be the ones to lead India’s pace department on overseas tours. But that did not happen with Aaron having fitness issues, Yadav being good in patches and erratic other times, like Wahab Riaz.”
But Akhtar also backed the fact that the current performance of the bowlers is a “healthy sign”, he said, “The thinking that (Virat) Kohli and the team management seem to have, they will only get better. India has always been known for their batting but nowadays you are seeing the emergence of fast bowlers too but still, I would say a long way to go.”
The bowlers certainly did their job at Newlands and Centurion, dismissing South Africa each time in four innings and out of the 40, 30 wickets were taken by the pacers. Most of the people believe that India’s series loss in South Africa was not entirely surprising but according to Akhtar, the result was unexpected.
The Rawalpindi express said, “I saw the first two Tests in bits and pieces. It would be wrong to say that it (India’s loss) was expected. It is still one of the best Test teams. Yes, they did not play well. The batsmen should have applied themselves better. It is, maybe, a result of a bad combination. Not taking wickets at the right time, not scoring enough runs.”
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He further elaborated, “Most of the guys in the team are right up there. They need to go back to the drawing board. I am quite impressed with (Hardik) Pandya as well. It is just the batsmen who did not apply themselves on pitches that were not so tough to bat on.”
Akhtar concluded his thoughts on India’s performance on an encouraging note, saying the defeat in South Africa could be a blessing in disguise. He said, “They have a chance to turn it all around (in England and Australia later this year). I would look at it like that. To lose a series like that could be the best thing that could happen to them. Before England, they have to utilize the time in the right manner, get the practice right. Lot of improvement is required in batting. England is a good team at home but you cannot write off India.”