When India landed in Australia, all eyes were on the big four in batting and Anil Kumble. And when an injured Zaheer Khan flew out, none gave the bowlers a chance to trouble the Aussies. But these youngsters have brought India close to a memorable win.
All the talk about him was on his lack of pace and how he had lost it. It was not completely unjustified because he was indeed bowling a few notches below than what he was when he burst on to the scene in Australia about four years ago. Predictably, he was not in the XI, but having got a chance here, he has shown that his ability to swing the ball is back.
The one he got Chris Rogers in the second innings with was as good a delivery a left-handed batsman can expect from a left-armer. It swung away late from such a line that the opener had to nibble at it. He hasn't been as effective against right-handers as he used to be, but with a number of left-handers in the Aussie line-up, Pathan can be very effective. Must pitch it up, as he has been doing, to cause more damage.
Like Pathan, his stock ball moves away from the left-handers. Unlike Pathan, he can consistently bowl at over 140 kmph and showed in the first innings how telling that was as long as he kept it full. There is enough bounce on the wicket to encourage a youngster to make the batsman smell leather, but from India's point of view, he must not get carried away by that.
The precious runs he added with Laxman for the ninth wicket must have made the adrenaline flow when he started bowling in the second innings and probably that's why he erred in line and length. Must get rid of that and bowl a fuller length on Saturday. He should also must not drag it towards the pad when the captain sets a seven-two off-side field against left-handers like he did on Friday.
Bowled at over 140 kmph in the first innings and got the ball to behave awkwardly off the seam when he pitched it just short of driving length. Was rewarded with two big wickets although an outburst of enthusiasm saw him get it wrong in the short spell he bowled on Friday when he struggled for line and length. However, it was too short a spell to cause major headache.
India will depend heavily on him on Saturday when they go for the jugular and he has to be spot-on because in this pace attack, he is the only one offering some variety.
Must be prepared to bowl longer spells as well because there are just three of his kind in the team. Like RP, he must realise that the more he pitches it up, the more are his chances of succeeding.
All eyes will be on the young speedsters, but this veteran of many victorious campaigns will be at the centre of what is going to be India’s artillery department. There is bounce in the pitch which can make him a lethal proposition even against a strong batting line-up that boasts of many stroke-players. His staid approach will be vital for the balance of an attack so full of youngsters. He knows how big a chance the team has got and that not many teams touring Australia come so close to victory in Perth. Played a key role at a crucial time in the first innings by bringing down the scoring rate and also got a vital wicket. May be required to play a bigger role in the 2nd innings because nobody else in Indian cricket history has played the role of the ‘finisher’ with such consistency.