Since Australian fast bowler Peter Siddle has already sounded the challenge for the four Test series, it’s worthwhile to assess the impact of Australian bowlers during their visits to India since 1956-57.
Pace, for many decades used to be an unwelcome visitor to Indian shores. But after Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and Venkatsai Laxman joined forces in the mid-90s, it has not been a major menace and the arrival of Virender Sehwag has challenged all bowlers with his audacious hitting.
The point that has to be emphasized though, is that of the old guard, only Tendulkar is still around and in the scheme of things of Test cricket Sehwag has not been able to demoralize bowlers after his 117 in the first innings of the first Test against England at Motera. The middle order has been most vulnerable.
Perhaps Siddle has a point when he said it’s better to play to the Australian team’s pace strength and it can look for inspiration from the trio of Glen McGrath (14), Jason Gillespie (20) and Michael Kasprowicz (9) who took 43 wickets and won a first Test series in India in 40 years in 2004-05.
While Siddle may be optimistic, Warne on broadcast duty for the second Test against England in Mumbai said that it takes three visits for a raw team to know the conditions here (India) and meet with success. Warne got 10 wickets at 54.00 under Mark Taylor in 1997-98, 10 wickets at 50.50 under Steve Waugh and then 14 wickets in three Tests at 30.07 under Gilchrist in 2004-05 series. Siddle (37 Tests, 141 wkts at 28.52), Mitchell Johnson (50 Tests, 205 wkts at 30.64) and Shane Watson (38 Tests, 62 wkts at 30.06) have played traditional cricket in India, but have not figured in a winning team. James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc, Jackson Bird and Moises Henriques have not played a Test match in India. Siddle made his debut at Mohali in the 2008-09 series and took four wickets at 44.00, Johnson has played six Tests (2008-09 and 2010-11) and has taken 21 wickets at 37.24 and Watson has played six Tests (2008-09 and 2010-11) and has taken 12 wickets at 33.42.
Australia have won 12 Test matches in India and four Test series. Leg spinner Richie Benaud (23) and fast bowler Ray Lindwall (12) played their part in their side’s 2-0 win in 1956-57. Benaud (29) was once again in the forefront of Australia’s 2-1 win in the 59-60 series, though the crafty left arm seamer Alan Davidson proved to be equal with 29 wickets. Fast bowler Ian Meckiff took 12 in the series. Ten years later, fast bowlers Graham McKenzie (21) and Alan Connolly (17) and spinners Ashley Mallet (28) and John Gleeson (10) turned out to be star performers and saw Australia under Bill Lawry win the series 3-1, though India should have won the Madras Test. Lapses by Farokh Engineer cost India the Test.