The Indian team appeared a different unit altogether under the leadership of Ajinkya Rahane on Day 1 of the Boxing Day Test against Australia at the MCG on Saturday. It did not take Rahane much time to introduce spin in the attack. In fact, Rahane brought R Ashwin on inside the first hour of play itself, and the move worked wonders as the off-spinner dismissed Matthew Wade and Steve Smith in consecutive overs to reduce Australia to 38/3.
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After stumps on Day 1, India fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah spoke on a range of topics, including the call to introduce spin early. “When we were bowling in the morning there was some moisture on the wicket, so you saw Ashwin and Jaddu (Ravindra Jadeja) got some spin. Because we wanted to make the most of the moisture, we were trying to use them, he (Ashwin) was getting good bounce,” Bumrah said.
“There were constant discussions going on between bowlers and the captain. The wicket changed after the first session. It got better to bat on in the second session and moisture went away. We were just trying to communicate what kind of lines we wanted to bowl so that we can set the field accordingly. When there was less help, we tried to change the line accordingly.”
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While Bumrah emerged India’s best bowler of the day, fellow pacer and Test debutant Mohammed Siraj impressed with his figures of 2/40, including the key wicket of Marnus Labuschagne and all-rounder Cameron Green. Bumrah praised Siraj, saying the fast bowler deserves to play Test cricket for India.
“He has worked really hard and come up the ranks. He was eager to bowl in the first session itself. There wasn’t a lot happening after lunch and he (Siraj) bowled with a lot of control,” he said. “Suddenly he started getting some movement and wanted to make the best of it. Playing his first Test match, he bowled really well and had confidence of using all his skills. It’s a heartening sign for us and hopefully he will continue doing that.”
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India did a good job to finish the opening day on 36/1, trailing Australia (195 all out) by 159 runs. They were dealt an early blow with Mayank Agarwal sent back for a duck in the first over, but Shubman Gill and Cheteshwar Pujara saw India through to the end of play without any further harm done. Bumrah explained how the plan on Day 2 will be not to play ambitious shots and take the innings forward steadily.
“We don’t want to be conservative in our mindset and be positive. Control the controllables. Not being reckless but playing with confidence will be the motive going forward. We are trying to focus on things that are in our hands. The focus will be on the first session tomorrow,” he said.