NEW DELHI: Former Australia captain Ian Chappell feels the Indian pace battery commands respect in all conditions and with the spinners, India's bowling arsenal is hard to match.
India whitewashed South Africa 3-0 in the recently concluded Test series by huge margins to consolidate their position at the top of the ICC Test Championship standings. Ace off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin was the highest wicket-taker in the series while spin partner Ravindra Jadeja also scalped a few, but it was the pacers Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav, who returned with a bagful of wickets too, a rarity in the past on spin-friendly Indian conditions.
What stood out more was that they did it without pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah, who is nursing an injury. "India has added a new dimension to their game with the fast bowlers -- even minus Jasprit Bumrah -- playing a huge part in a home victory. After years of planning and the advent of numerous academies, India has finally put together a group of fast bowlers who allow them to compete anywhere in the cricket world," Chappell wrote in his column for ESPNCricinfo.
"Bumrah, when fit, the indefatigable Mohammed Shami, the vastly improved Ishant Sharma, and the pacy Umesh Yadav give India a quartet of fast bowlers that demand respect in all conditions. These pace spearheads, added to India's always capable spinners, give the attack a potency that not too many other countries can match," he wrote.
Chappell said with Hardik Pandya's inclusion in the side as a seam-bowling all-rounder, India would be well placed to cope with any condition.
"Slot a fit seam-bowling all-rounder in Hardik Pandya into that group and India are more than adequately placed to cope with any conditions they encounter. A well-balanced bowling attack is the perfect antidote to any attempt to provide conditions that heavily favour the home side."
Lauding Rohit Sharma for his exploits while opening the batting, Chappell said India now has a surplus of talent that makes them the envy of the cricket world. "It was always only a matter of when India got their act together -- in particular concerning selection -- before they became a true powerhouse in the game.
"With an enormous talent pool, young players gaining experience from mixing with international stars in the IPL, and the right selections, India should remain a powerful opponent for the indefinite future."
On Kohli, he wrote: "The other factor in India's ascent has been the shining example set by their captain, Virat Kohli. Always a player who wanted to perform well in all conditions, Kohli's desire for excellence rubbed off on his teammates and the whole side has the common goal of wanting to be the best."
Chappell also raised his concern in the manner in which South Africa lost all the three Tests, without any fight barring, to an extent, the first rubber. He said that the five-day contest survives on healthy contests and this is alarming for the game.
"Test cricket relies heavily on a good contest to be entertaining and exciting."
Recent contests like India's triumph in Australia and the enthralling Ashes series will keep patrons fascinated by the game. However, a plethora of lop-sided series or boring batting exhibitions have little appeal as a contest and will quickly lose favour with the fans.
"If South Africa's slide is a long-term affliction -- and judging by their batting in India, this could well be the case -- then that leaves three teams, India, Australia and England in the strong category, with New Zealand just below that standard. The rest of the Test teams have a lot of ground to make up in order to be regarded as strong performers in all conditions. This is far from ideal when Test cricket already has many challenges in trying to attract fans to the stadium."
"If Test cricket is to be a viable part of the game's future, the standard of play needs to remain high," he wrote.
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