Fast bowlers relish fast and bouncy wickets. But not if you are Umesh Yadav.
India fast bowler Umesh has all the attributes needed to succeed as a fast bowler. He has pace, a strong action, natural away swing and stamina. And he has managed to stay fit in the second half of his career as he grew into his bowling body.
But yet another disappointing effort in a crucial away Test has put the focus on Umesh’s inability to make the most of conditions most subcontinent pacers dream about.
In the England series earlier in the year, Umesh was selected for the first Test in Birmingham. In a match dominated by bowlers, Umesh managed three wickets. Not too bad, but not flashy either.
He raised hopes of a resurgence by picking up 10 wickets in the Hyderabad Test against the West Indies. But he went back to his old habits when he was selected for the Perth Test against Australia.
Umesh Yadav has been terrible. Will be one of the main culprits of the loss. India have managed with a 3-man attack.— Abhishek (@Sajjanlaunda) December 17, 2018
India went in with an all-pace attack and on a wicket where Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah bowled grenades, Umesh had to be hidden in both innings.
In the first innings, Umesh bled 78 runs from 23 overs for two wickets. In the second innings, he was carted around for 61 runs from 14 overs without a wicket. In yet another low-scoring Test, Umesh was the weak link.
The Vidarbha pacer is an enigma. His record in India, which is not a haven for fast bowlers, is markedly better than his away record.
In 24 home Tests, Umesh has picked up 73 wickets from 24 Tests at a respectable average of under 28. But in away Tests, his record falls to 46 wickets from 17 matches at an average of 42.
There are two major reasons for this anomaly. One, Umesh is more comfortable with the Indian SG ball which offers good control with the seam of the ball and also reverse swing in the middle overs. The right arm quick naturally bowls a full length with the ball tailing in around the 40-over mark. He is at his best in that particular condition but has failed to alter his game to strike with the new Kookaburra or Duke ball with reverse swing not being a major factor.
Secondly, Umesh does not know how to play the holding role as he bowls at least one boundary ball every over. That has put added pressure on captain Virat Kohli who tried to get the least possible overs out of him in Perth where other Indian quicks were exemplary.
Umesh has been playing international cricket for seven years and his failure to master his craft at the age of 31 is ominous. It is unlikely Umesh will tour Australia again with younger fast bowlers coming through the ranks. Maybe he will be used in home Tests while senior pacers are rested.
It is frustrating to see a genuine pacer like Umesh squander the limited opportunities he gets overseas. But looking at what he did in Perth against an Australian batting without two of its best batsmen, you understand why he has fallen down the pecking order.
Shaw was certain to start the Border Gavaskar Trophy but injured his ankle during the warm-up match before the Test series. Shaw was expected to regain his fitness ahead of the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne with former Australia captain Ricky Ponting saying Shaw looked at ease while batting in the outfield during the ongoing Perth Test.
However, the Indian management has decided to send Shaw back home and asked for batsman Mayank Agarwal as a replacement.
Also, all-rounder Hardik Pandya will join the team for the third Test in Melbourne. Pandya, who has just recovered from a serious back injury, proved is match fitness by playing in the Ranji Trophy match for his state team Baroda against Mumbai. Pandya picked up seven wickets in the match and scored a fifty.
However, it remains to be seen if the Indian management will take a chance with players who are not 100 per cent fit for a Test.
Despite Shaw’s injury, current openers Murali Vijay and KL Rahul will feel the pressure as one of them is almost certain to lose his spot after continued failures at the top of the order.
A decade back, relations between the two teams reached breaking point when Harbhajan was accused of calling Symonds a “monkey”, a charge that was denied by the Indian spinner. According to Symonds, the two called a truce three years later at the Indian Premier League where both played for the Mumbai Indians.
“We go to a very wealthy man’s place for a barbecue and dinner one night and the whole team’s there and he had guests there, and Harbhajan said ‘mate, can I speak to you for a minute out in the garden out the front’,” Symonds told Fox Sports.
“He goes, ‘look, I’ve got to say sorry to you for what I did to you in Sydney. I apologise, I hope I didn’t cause you, your family, your friends too much harm and I really apologise for what I said, I shouldn’t have said it’. And he actually broke down crying, and I could just see that was a huge weight off his shoulders, he had to get rid of it. We shook hands and I gave him a hug and said: ‘Mate, it’s all good. It’s dealt with’.”
However, Harbhajan said such an incident did not take place and accused Symonds of cooking up the story.
“I thought he was a very good cricketer but Symonds has turned out to be a good fiction writer – he sold a story then (2008) and he is ‘selling a story’ now (2018). Mate, the world has come of age in these 10 years and it’s time you also grew up,” Harbhajan tweeted.