Australia must tire out Jasprit Bumrah, batsmen must deliver: Josh Hazlewood
Part of the pace attack that will again be tasked to make amends for the 2-1 loss in 2018-19, Josh Hazlewood feels familiarity with the Indian batting line-up will make the job a bit easier this time.Updated: Nov 19, 2020, 09:25 IST
Josh Hazlewood was on the field when India achieved the near impossible two years ago - won a first Test series in Australia. Part of the pace attack that will again be tasked to make amends for the 2-1 loss in 2018-19, the 29-year-old feels familiarity with the Indian batting line-up will make the job a bit easier this time.
Hazlewood took 13 wickets in that four-Test series, forming a strong bowling unit with Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and off-spinner Nathan Lyon. Virat Kohli’s team still hurt them. The return of Steve Smith and David Warner, and the rise of Marnus Labuschagne, makes Australia the favourites this time.
“They won last time, and we don’t lose too many series in Australia,” Hazlewood said in an interview on Wednesday. “That certainly hurt at the time. We know the guys who were in that time. I will remember that. It gives motivation this time around.
“Australia-India rivalry is up there with the Ashes. India have probably added to it, the last time when they came here and won. That was some tight series.”
Cheteshwar Pujara was India’s standout batsman, scoring three centuries and grinding out the Australian attack. Kohli and Rishabh Pant scored centuries. Despite India’s batting depth, it is their bowling that the hosts will have to contend with, feels Hazlewood.
Rivals in pace
“They out-bowled us the last time they came. That went a long way for them in winning the series. They have most bases covered with their quicks. If Ishant Sharma gets here at some point it will add to their strength.
“They are all a little bit different. For the last 10-15 years, Indian pacers have kept improving. Our batters will have to be on their toes to counter that.”
Bumrah took 21 scalps to be joint-highest wicket-taker with Lyon. Mohammed Shami (16) and Ishant Sharma (11) too played vital roles with India fielding four fast bowlers in Perth, the one game they lost.
Ishant, who left IPL midway due to a stomach muscle injury, is back to bowling almost full steam at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru. Bumrah and Shami, with Test pacers Umesh Yadav, Navdeep Saini and Mohammed Siraj are training in Sydney ahead of the Test series, starting on December 17.
“Bumrah is probably the standout. He is unique with his action. He maintains pace very well throughout the day, and the whole series. He is probably the key. He can take wickets upfront or with the old ball. I guess it’s about getting lot of overs into him, try to tire him out in the first couple of games. That will be the key,” Hazlewood said.
Hazlewood made his Test debut against India in 2014, and his latest IPL season was with Chennai Super Kings. Thus he has an idea how Indian cricket has progressed. He had three interesting picks for those who could hurt Australia.
“There are young guys coming through, players like Shubman Gill. H might get an opportunity. Hardik Pandya had a great tournament as a finisher in T20 cricket. He is one we have got eyes on. Rohit Sharma—he is a class batsman, sort of a care-less guy.
“Then you have Pujara and Rahane. The top-30 Indian cricketers are here. We will have to try to outlast him (Pujara), I guess. He doesn’t mind waiting for the quicks to tire out. He is the old school Test batsman… once you are off that line and length, he will hurt you.
“It will be a challenge for us; don’t think Virat’s absence from the last three Tests will hurt them that much.”
If India are a seasoned bunch, Australia too have bowlers who are “two years better”, coach Justin Langer recently told Sydney Morning Herald.
Hazlewood said: “We know our roles pretty well. The three quicks (Starc, Cummins, Hazlewood) along with Nathan, we’ve played a whole lot of cricket. Starc is a genuine wicket-taker. He is great to open the bowling with. He just cracks the game open from time to time.”
The bowlers though need more help from the Australian batsmen than last time, Hazlewood said.
In 2018-19, none managed a century and Marcus Harris’ 79 and series aggregate of 258 runs was the best for the hosts. It will be a far bigger challenge for India with Smith, Warner back and Labuschagne, Australia’s best debutant in recent times who has scored three centuries and a double in his last five home Tests.
“We play our best cricket in Australia when we score big innings. In the Ashes, we have seen it. Last time when England came (2017-18), we made big scores of 600, even when Pakistan came (2019). It not only gives the bowlers time off their feet, off the field time to recover and refresh, but also to come out a bit better prepared for the second innings.
“It can snowball if you are not off the field long enough. Injuries and niggles can happen. You get more tired as the series goes on. That’s part of the play. The batsmen are not only scoring runs but buying time. That’s what Pujara does for India.”
The Test series will start with a day-night game at Adelaide, if Covid-19 in South Australia does not play a spoiler. It is a venue where Australia have played four of their seven home pink-ball fixtures.
“We have played a lot of pink-ball cricket in the last five-six years, and a lot of it has been at the Adelaide Oval. We know the conditions. The timing of the new ball, change of innings is very important. The two hours at night. It’s about setting your team up. Those things can have big swings in the match,” Hazlewood said.
India’s fixtures start on November 27 with the ODI series followed by a T20 series. Though Hazlewood made his ODI debut in 2010 and T20I start in 2013, he hasn’t played much limited-overs cricket. He has played 51 Tests, 51 ODIs and eights T20Is. He wants to change that.
“On some occasions, the T20 and Test teams played at the same time. That wasn’t ideal. It’s a lot different this year. There will be lot of opportunities. I put myself in the IPL auction. In the next 12 months, I hope to improve and get a few more games.”
With the aggressive Kohli leading India, some banter can be expected. Some former Australia players have cautioned against provoking the India skipper.
Hazlewood feels Australia must choose their targets smartly.
“I don’t get too much involved, maybe from time to time. For certain players, it brings the best in them and for some it brings them down. They get too emotional and probably go away from their game and skills.
“It’s important to judge who it is best to try against and who it is not.”
-The series will be broadcast on Sony Ten 1, Sony Ten 3 and Sony Six from November 27