Skipper Ajinkya Rahane, who will be leading India in the Boxing Day Test against Australia, is unfazed by the absence of two of the three bowlers who played a key role in helping the team win the 2018-19 Test series, saying the onus lies on bowlers to bowl in partnerships.
India will enter the second Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) on Saturday with five bowlers as they look to fill the void left by the absence of pace bowler Mohammad Shami, who has been ruled out of the remaining three Test because of a fracture in his right hand he sustained in the first Test.
India are already missing premier fast bowler Ishant Sharma who did not go to Australia as he is recovering from side strain sustained in the Indian Premier League.
Shami and Ishant’s absence means that India are without two of the three pace bowlers that helped them win the series in Australia in 2018-19. The two with Jasprit Bumrah had combined to pick 48 of the 70 Australia wickets to fall. Bumrah was the man of the match in the last MCG Test in 2018 when he picked nine wickets for 86.
The onus will now be on Bumrah, the only member of the trio who remains in Australia. He will feature in the second Test alongside Umesh Yadav and debutant Mohammed Siraj as well as spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.
Asked if Bumrah’s responsibility will increase, Rahane told the media on Friday, “Jasprit is a quality bowler and has been doing really well for us. But I think apart from Jasprit, Umesh and the guy (Siraj) who will play in place of Shami tomorrow, is also equally talented.”
“Umesh has been doing very well for so many years, it is about bowling in partnerships for all of us. Having said that, we have discussed how we are going about it. Jasprit is quality bowler but it is about bowling in partnerships and to a plan,” he added.
India will also feature a new opening pair in Mayank Agarwal and Shubman Gill. Prithvi Shaw, who paired with Agarwal at the top in the pink-ball Test, has been dropped from the second Test.
Rahane, who was speaking before the announcement of the playing XI, said he wants to give freedom to the openers to play their natural game.
“Openers’ role everywhere is really crucial. We don’t want to put pressure. We want to give them the freedom to play their game. Having said that, openers’ role is crucial. When you get a partnership, it helps in laying the foundation. It becomes easy for the batsmen who come in later,” the stand-in skipper said.
Rahane also said that he will miss Virat Kohli who has returned to India for the birth of his first child.
“We will definitely miss Virat in three Test matches, obviously players like him, when you have him by your side it is a great thing. We’ll miss him,” said the 32-year-old.