India's return looms as another survival of the fittest
Australia's star quick expecting another grinding battle against India's batsmen in the Border-Gavaskar campaign this summer
23 May 2020, 10:11 AM AEST
Pat Cummins says Australia's fast bowlers will need to 'take their medicine' if they want to outlast India's marathon men this summer and avoid a repeat of the batting spree the tourists enjoyed two seasons ago.
India's breakthrough series win in Australia in 2018-19 was built on a foundation of old-fashioned Test batting, led by the unflappable Cheteshwar Pujara, who faced almost twice as many deliveries as any other player in the four-Test campaign.
The returns of Steve Smith and David Warner as well as the emergence of Marnus Labuschagne means Australia's batting will be much stronger this time around, but the battle between India's batters and Australia's bowlers will likely feature much of the same cast members from two summers ago.
The likes of Pujara, skipper Virat Kohli and even Test rookie Mayank Agarwal took full advantage of some lifeless pitches in that 2018-19 campaign, particularly in Melbourne and Sydney, stonewalling against Australia's four-man bowling attack before flourishing later in the innings.
The 1258 deliveries Pujara faced in the four-Test series was the second most by a visiting batsmen to Australia in almost 50 years, behind only Alistair Cook's tally of 1438 from five Tests in the 2010-11 Ashes.
Cummins has his fingers crossed that the tourists will be faced with some less-helpful conditions this season and says getting the likes of Pujara out of his comfort zone will be a key factor in determining the outcome of the series.
"He had a mammoth series for them (in 2018-19)," Cummins told cricket.com.au this week.
"He's one of those players that'll take his time, he's in his own little bubble and he doesn't get disturbed by too much.
"We've got to find a way to outlast him if he bats the way he did last time. There wasn't too much in the pitch so you couldn't manufacture anything.
"So I think (we need to) take our medicine a bit more and try and outlast him.
"But we'll wait and see. Hopefully the wickets are a bit bouncier (and) we’ve got a few more options."
Australia's inexperienced batting line-up copped most of the criticism for India's win two summers ago, but their star quicks were statistically below their best as well.
While none of Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc disgraced themselves in unhelpful conditions, they all returned worse bowling averages and strike rates in that series compared to their career records.
While believing he's a much better bowler now than he was in that series, the lessons from that long, hot Indian summer have not been lost on Cummins.
"I think each Test I play, I learn a little bit about my own bowling," he said. "I've probably played 10 or 15 Tests since that series and I feel like with each series I get a little bit better.
"There were a few lessons; the first lesson I learnt was how brutal Test cricket is. They might bat all of day one and there's nothing that'll stop them batting all day two unless we take wickets, which they did a few times.
"They showed us what you have to be, what level you have to be at, to be the best team in the world."
The announcement this month that Australia had displaced India as the top-ranked Test team in the world will add extra spice to an eagerly-anticipated series, which officials are increasingly confident will go ahead despite the global uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Australia's batting line-up will be boosted by the inclusions of Smith, Warner and Labuschagne this season, with Travis Head the only likely batting survivor from the 2018-19 campaign.
Cummins believes his side are far better equipped for what shapes as an unofficial world title bout.
"I think we'll be ready for them this time," he said.
"Everyone's a little more experienced this time because obviously we've got a couple of class batters back in the side and someone like Marnus has played a bit more and done brilliantly.
"So I feel like we’re in a better position."