The current Indian pace attack is “one of the most lethal” in world cricket since it has the ability to create openings in every spell, reckons senior off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin.
There was no Jasprit Bumrah but Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav were ruthless and unplayable as Bangladeshi batsmen danced to their tunes and were skittled out for just 150 in the opening Test.
“I think Shami, Ishant and Umesh have been bowling well as a pack and if you add Bumrah to it over the last few months or a year in Test cricket, I think it’s one of the most lethal pace attacks going around in the world if not the best,” Ashwin said at the end of play on the first day.
“And I am saying that as a disclaimer, I don’t want people judging me on that comment. But it’s right up there and one of the best bowling attacks I have seen in recent times,” he said.
“Sometimes you feel that every spell they bowl, something is happening or they make it happen,” the off-spinner added.
Ashwin however denied that he and Ravindra Jadeja will be changing their approach because the pacers have started taking the lead.
“As a bowler, I personally never looked at it that way. It’s my job to pick up a wicket and try and capitalise if the pacers don’t pick a wicket then get a breakthrough.
“Having said that, I am taking nothing away from the fast bowlers. They have been exceptional, especially if you look at Umesh over the last few years sine 2016 when the home season happened. He has always given us an early breakthrough. Ishant has been splendid and Shami has probably in his best rhythm in his entire career,” said the man, who completed the feat of 250 Test wickets at home.
Ashwin however said that he found the decision to bat first by Bangladesh on a wicket which had plenty of bounce as a “brave decision”.
“We didn’t expect that. We thought they’ll bowl but they batted first which is very commendable on their part,” Ashwin said trying to tone the criticism.
Was Bangladesh scared?
“You are putting me in the spot and asking me questions that I shouldn’t be answering. Look I don’t think any international team is scared to come out and play a game. If your talking about No 10 and 11 moving away from the stumps all that happened with a lot of number 10s and 11s,” he said.
Ashwin also wanted people to understand that it would be unfair to compare India and Bangladesh considering the home team’s majority players already have at least 45-50 Test experience.
“You need to understand that a lot of players on the other side are inexperienced. I don’t know what the exact numbers are. I would say good cricket was played rather than being harsh on Bangladesh. It’s important to talk about the positives of Indian bowlers,” said Ashwin.
Ashwin likes ‘Permanent Test centre’ concept, feels ‘Pink Test’ is way forward
Day-night Test is a “move in the right direction”, feels Ashwin, who also supports his skipper Virat Kohli’s rationale of having five permanent centres for the game’s longest format.
Ashwin was asked about the ‘Pink Test’ and if he is ready to accept the change with open arms.
“The pink ball Test match is a great welcoming sign. India as a Test playing country, it was necessary for us to play Day-Night Test. The office-going crowd which couldn’t catch Test cricket can now do so,” Ashwin said when asked about his opinion.
But there will be challenges that need to be countered, including extra lacquer, which could be detrimental for slow bowlers.
“Obviously, it’s a challenge to play with the pink ball. The ball has a lot more lacquer. Personally I think it’s the right direction we have taken, and hopefully, the Test match will be a historic moment and it will be the start of many more to come.”
Having not played a single game with the pink ball till now, Ashwin is still getting adjusted to the colour, which, at times, looks more orange than pink.
“For starters you can’t sleep at 9 o’ clock anymore in the night. Apparently, the game is starting at 1 pm.
“I’ve never played a pink ball game. I didn’t play the Duleep Trophy that happened a few years ago. I haven’t even bowled a single ball with the pink ball. Obviously I just saw it. Sometimes I don’t understand if its orange or pink, still coming to terms with that,” he said.
He expects the pink ball to do a lot more in the evening on a re-laid pitch in Kolkata.
“I think having played in Kolkata before, it does a lot more in the evening and the pitch is re-laid. It does move a little bit with the white ball so you can imagine what could happen with the pink or orange ball. We are all little wary but excited about the game,” he said.
On having permanent Test centres, Ashwin wants an academic discussion on the subject rather than going into whether it would be prudent or not.
“Every other Test playing nation generally has a certain pattern of playing Test cricket. They do know how the venue behaves, how the pitch behaves, how the games pans out. That’s perennially how Test cricket works in most parts of the world. Even in India it was no exception.
“But of late, with a lot of cricketers coming from different parts of the country, cricket has grown and gone to every nook and corner which is a great sign. Hence we are having Test matches in various venues,” reasoned Ashwin.
He would like to leave it to the administrators to decide whether it was the right or wrong decision.
“The understanding of a particular venue and keeping it that way will help the players. Whether or not that’s the right thing to do is something decision makers will have to take,” he concluded.
We need to be mentally strong to face this kind of pace attack: Mominul
Meanwhile Bangladesh captain Mominul Haque on Thursday admitted his team lacked the mental strength required to counter India’s formidable pace attack.
Bangladesh were all out for 150 after opting to bat with Ishant, Shami and Umesh sharing seven wickets between them. More importantly, Bangladesh’s lower-order batsmen looked scared to face the Indian pacers.
“The wicket wasn’t unplayable at all or else myself or Mushfiqur (Rahim) wouldn’t have scored the runs that we scored. The problem is that when you are playing the world’s No. 1 Test team, you have to be mentally far more stronger,” Mominul said at the end of the day’s play.
When asked about his decision to bat first on a bouncy track, the skipper tried to defend it.
“If we had started well, the question wouldn’t have been asked in first place,” he replied.
When questions were asked about whether the preparation for the Test series against India was an ideal one in the backdrop of players’ strike, Mominul spoke about how temperament has become a big factor.
“Personally, I have played nine first-class games in the last five months and that’s good enough preparation I believe. Yes, what is different is the quality of bowling that we are facing.
“Obviously, at the international level, it will go up by a few notches. But then you don’t expect bowlers to bowl at 120 or 130 clicks at this level. It is a 100 percent mental thing,” said Mominul.
The young skipper, on his first day as Test captain, was grilled by the large Bangladeshi media contingent.
He was asked why Mushfiqur, who is not keeping, is coming in at No. 5 instead of No. 4?
“It was a decision of the team management that he should come in at No. 5. I also feel that he is better suited at No. 5.”
The counter was if he is referring to the team management, then what is his role as captain, and the youngster suddenly went into a shell.
“Okay, then I am the team management,” he smiled meekly.
He termed his own dismissal as a “tactical error” on his part.
“I am responsible as I had a good partnership with Mushfiqur. I should have continued.”
With no Al Amin Hossain or Mustafizur Rahman in the team, Mominul reasoned that Ebadot Hossain and Abu Jayed were preferred as their style of bowling is far more suited to the longer format.
But he clarified that he had faith in Mustafizur’s bowling, too.
“I have faith in everyone,” he responded.
Asked about the match situation, Mominul made it clear that it will be very difficult to save the game from here on.
“Let’s be practical. They have already scored 80 plus. We are lagging far behind and it will be very difficult to save the game from this situation.”