Indian pace trio gets boost ahead of away tours

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By 2017-11-23

Kolkata: It has been a fairly long and fruitful home run for India in international cricket. The cycle will come to an end at the conclusion of the ongoing series against Sri Lanka. The Indian team will be mostly on the road over the next two years with most matches scheduled outside the subcontinent.

Although the Indian team management has harped on the importance of focusing on the current series, their choice of pitch at the Eden Gardens for the first Test against Sri Lanka clearly indicated that they are alive to the challenges that lie ahead. The main reason for India's poor show abroad has been the batsmen's inability to cope with the testing conditions there.

Skipper Virat Kohli spoke about the need to embrace tough conditions before the Sri Lanka series, and interestingly, none of the players had any complaints about the track. "It's very clear that we're preparing for the next two years when we're scheduled to play a lot of cricket overseas, where we are likely to be confronted with pitches similar to the one here (Eden Gardens). It is going to be challenging for us, so we wanted to start preparing for that," opener K.L. Rahul said after the first Test finished in a draw amid a lot of excitement here on Monday.

While Cheteshwar Pujara said "playing on such tracks helps bring out the real character of a player", Sri Lankan coach Nic Pothas described the conditions here as "more like England in May-June."

The fair bit of grass on the Eden pitch and plenty of moisture due to unseasonal rain gave the Indian batsmen a taste of overseas conditions. Unfortunately, not many batsmen passed the test with flying colours. But for Pujara, none of the other top-order batsmen could offer even minimum resistance in the first innings, while Kohli played a superb knock in the second essay after openers Shikhar Dhawan and K.L. Rahul had provided a fabulous start, albeit when the pitch had eased out on the fifth day.

The Indian pacers, however, emerged as the real heroes. The three-pronged pace attack of Mohammad Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav breathed fire even on a fifth-day pitch that had dried out completely under a bright sunshine.Interestingly, all the 17 Sri Lankan wickets that fell in the first Test were picked by the pace troika who bowled 99 overs over two innings. Never before in India's Test history had pacers picked up all the wickets in a 'home' match.

So dominant and productive were the pacers that skipper Kohli hardly had to call upon the services of off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin - the No.4 ranked bowler in Tests - or left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja, currently ranked No.3. The spin twins shared only 10 overs between them.

As a matter of fact, of the 45 wickets that tumbled in the rain truncated Eden Test, Sri Lanka's Dilruwan Perera was the only spinner to taste some success, picking up three wickets in the match.The sterling display by the Indian pacers is bound to boost their confidence. South Africa, England and Australian batsmen will have to contend with an Indian pace attack - which also includes Ishant Sharma - that not only consistently clocks 140kph on the speed gun, but also gets the ball to seam and swing.

Sri Lanka skipper Dinesh Chandimal made a pertinent point at the end of the match on Monday. "What you didn't see among Indian fast bowlers earlier was the pace... they bowl with genuine pace."

There's plenty to look forward to in the coming months.

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