Is this the million dollar question Indian cricket fans are asking on the eve of the second test at the MCG?
It’s no secret that the odds are strongly against the visitors. There is no Virat Kohli, nor Mohammed Shami. More key hitters struggled in the first test, there are a whole host of card changes for the second test. Add to that the fact that the Aussies are very confident after concluding a more than complete 8 wicket win in the first test, where the likes of Josh Hazlewood is Pat Cummins ripped the Indian batting line-up to get them out for their lowest Test inning of all time (36).
In the absence of Virat, Test deputy captain Ajinkya Rahane he will lead the squad for the remainder of the high-pressure test series, in which India is already down 0-1. To say it will be a big challenge for Rahane is an understatement considering what the team is going through. His batting form is also not the best at the moment.
Ajinkya Rahane and Ravi Shastri during a training session in Melbourne. (AFP photo)
Timesofindia.com caught up with former Zimbabwe captain and England head coach Andy Flower, who is also the current coach of the Delhi Bulls team in the Abu Dhabi T10 League, to discuss India’s chances of moving forward in the series without the services of Virat Kohli, The absence of Shami, KL Rahul the player and more.
India started its test campaign on a disappointing note, losing the opening test, in Adelaide. Do you think the defending winners of the Border Gavaskar Trophy can come back and win the series? What’s your prediction?
Well, India won the last test series played in Australia. Hence, they definitely have the ability to do that. I don’t doubt it. However, it will be hard to come back from that first defeat. But they have the ability to do it. It is (Australia) a very difficult place to visit. Australians are very good in their backyard. They are very familiar with the conditions at each of their six test sites. They understand the conditions and how to exploit them. Hence, India must be at the top of their game if they need to make a comeback in the second test game. So, it will be very interesting to see how they come back. And also, how they fight the combination of precision and fast and heavy bowling of the Australian quicks. Because that (Hazlewood and Cummins) is a deadly combination in Test cricket. Things can happen pretty quickly when those guys land the ball in the right areas. I have been to the end of a similar situation in Australia. Hence, it is by no means beyond India. But they have to be at the top of their game to turn things around.
How difficult will it be for India without the services of Virat Kohli, who left on paternity leave?
There are a couple of things Virat will miss, I guess. Number one is his joke. He was obviously beating brilliantly before being eliminated in the final test. And so, its volume of racing will be missing. And also, I think, they will lack the confidence and aggression that the world-class player (Kohli) gives to a team when he’s in the batting lineup. And then as a captain, being led by someone who refuses to be intimidated by any opposition, that gives people confidence. Hence, it is a great lack. And it’s a good test for other Indian players. (Ajinkya) Rahane will lead and it’s a good test for whoever comes in and takes his place as a player.
India was grouped by 36 in the second inning of the Adelaide Test. What is your assessment of what went wrong? Was it a lack of technique / temperament or just a big unplayable bowling alley or a combination of the two that saw India being eliminated for their lowest overall innings?
I’m going to sit on the fence because I haven’t really seen what happened. I have been busy in Dubai, preparing for the project and also spent some time with my two children who are here with me. So, I didn’t actually see any wickets in that inning. So, I can’t comment. What I do know is that those Aussie bowlers, like Hazelwood who hit a good length and hit the seam, find enough movement to hit the bat on both sides. They are the best artists. So, I’m not going to make any judgments. I should see it with my own eyes to make a judgment. But what I do know is that these situations come to challenge you as a player. And now we will see what those players are made of to see how they will return in the second Test.
Indian cricketers during a training session in Melbourne. (AFP photo)
As an assistant coach of Kings XI Punjab, you worked closely with KL Rahul. He did a good job with the bat and gloves in limited edition cricket. Your opinion on Rahul the player and do you think he should be a constant in the Indian Test team in the future too?
I really enjoyed working with KL. He is a beautiful hitter to watch as he plays. Sounds aesthetically beautiful shots. It is very elegant, it is high above the ball. He can actually do well in Australia with his technique. I also enjoyed working with him as a captain. I thought he was very calm. He has always had a positive vision in preparing for a match, in training, in speaking, in talking with him about technical issues. He’s a very positive thinker, which is obviously a nice thing to be with. I don’t see why he shouldn’t be a consistent artist for India and a consistent selection. I would not make a final judgment on the selection issues because I am not close enough to Indian cricketers watching them in training, studying, who the other contenders are, to make a judgment on him compared to another player.
Mohammed Shami was excluded from the rest of the test series due to injury. How big will the weight on Jasprit Bumrah’s shoulders be? Who do you think should play in place of Shami – Navdeep Saini or Mohd Siraj?
We will miss Shami very much. Certainly. He is a very skilled bowler. I met him while I was at Kings XI Punjab. The way it holds that seam and the snappy pace it generates from that snappy action of hers, is truly impressive to watch. So, we will miss it. Burma is an exceptional bowler hat in any format. So, yes, the burden is on his shoulders to make his way with the ball. But it is not beyond him. He is an exceptional artist. I like Saini. Raise the seam and move the ball. A kookaburra ball in Australia might present some problems because it doesn’t move as much as the Dukes (ball). I know less than Siraj, it wouldn’t be right for me to make a judgment.
How would you rate the Delhi Bulls title chances this year in the Abu Dhabi T10 league?
Well, look, we just finished the draft. I am quite satisfied with how the draft actually went. I think we filled the roles we wanted to fill with the kind of players we wanted to choose, which I’m very happy with. We have an excellent tactical captain Dwayne Bravo. We have some good fast attack bowling. We have a young forward, keeper-hitter in Rahmanullah Gurbaz. And some good reserve players on the team. Well, of course, I think with optimism. I think our chances will be good. We have a good skipper in charge. If we can come up with the right tactic, we have a very good chance. It’s a brilliant format to get involved with. We all like to play aggressively. We like to take aggressive options with the ball or bat, and the small size forces players to innovate and be more powerful.
The Delhi Bulls will be led by dynamic Dwayne Bravo this season. Your opinion on Bravo the player and Bravo the captain?
Bravo has so much experience in limited cricket now. Last year, Bravo had seriously injured his finger and still performed very well for us. This year, hopefully, he will be completely fit. And as a player, we know we have two very skilled and competent bowling overs. And he will beat at number 7 for us and can still hit the ball outside the park. So, as a player, very happy to have him in our lineup. As a captain he is very good technically.