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Australia v India

From Srinath to Vinay, the contrasting careers of the India Test bowlers to debut in Australia

India Australia
by Manoj Narayan 3-minute read

It’s exciting times for Navdeep Saini and Mohammed Siraj. When India take the field to face Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Boxing Day, one of them will likely be realising a longheld dream – making their Test debut.

Unfortunately, they will not exactly be following in a long and glorious tradition. The stories of Indian bowlers making their Test debuts overseas and going on to have long and successful international careers aren’t too many. In fact, if Saini or Siraj do go on to have great Test careers after a debut this series, it will put them in a select list of players who have managed to do so. For every Jasprit Bumrah, there are more than a few Vinay Kumars.

Australia, particularly, hasn’t been kind on Indian debutant bowlers. Its fast, bouncy pitches couldn’t be more different from what these bowlers are used to in Indian conditions, and that means it comes down to, quite often, learning on the job, mid-series, amidst all the mental disintergration Australians are famous for.

Below, we look at the Indian bowlers who have made their Test debut in Australia in the last 30 years, and how they fared in their careers. It’s a mixed bag, to say the least.

Karn Sharma

In the 2014/15 Test series opener in Adelaide, Karn Sharma, a leg-spinner, made his Test debut for India. He had made his international debut earlier in the year, in both ODIs and T20Is, but this was the big one. Unfortunately for Karn, it didn’t go too well.

He got some big wickets, dismissing Michael Clarke and David Warner (twice), but his match-haul of four wickets had come for a total of 238 runs. When you consider the fact that India lost that match – despite Virat Kohli’s twin centuries in his first match as stand-in Test captain – by just 48 runs, Karn’s figures were far too expensive.

There were mitigating factors. India’s attack was weak on the whole – Rohit Sharma and Murali Vijay had to bowl their part-time turners, while Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma weren’t the force they are today. But it didn’t matter. Karn had disappointed, and he never played for India again.

Irfan Pathan

In December 2003, India handed a debut to a young, handsome swing-and-seam bowler for the Adelaide Test against Australia. Irfan Pathan didn’t have the greatest debut, though. He picked just the one wicket in the whole match – though Matthew Hayden isn’t a bad one to scalp on debut – and scored just the one run.

Still, India famously won the match, thanks to the second of those legendary Dravid-Laxman partnerships and an Ajit Agarkar special for the ages. Pathan played in Sydney later in the series, faring better, and went on to be hailed, for a while, as the successor to Kapil Dev’s as India’s greatest all-rounder.

For a while, it really seemed he was. Pathan ended his international career with 173 appearances across formats, in which he took 301 wickets and scored 2,821 runs. A more than decent career.

Subroto Banerjee

As far as debuts go, Banerjee didn’t have it bad. He picked the wickets of three of the top four in the Australia line-up – Geoff Marsh, Mark Taylor, and Mark Waugh – on his first day as an India Test cricketer, in the 1992 Sydney Test in January. He ended the innings with commendable figures of 3-47. Curiously, that was the extent of his influence as a Test cricketer.

He didn’t bowl in the second innings as the match was drawn, and didn’t play a Test thereafter. There were a few ODIs appearances strewn through the next year – he played six in all – but by the end of the year, his international career had ended.

As one of the early products of the MRF Pace Foundation, there were high hopes for Banerjee. However, he struggled to bowl long spells, and his tendency to bowl short and wide meant he never realised those hopes.

Vinay Kumar

Vinay Kumar had a stellar domestic career, the highlight of which came when he led Karnataka to a historic treble in 2013/14 and 2014/15. Unfortunately, he couldn’t translate those successes to the international circuit.

Vinay was handed his debut in Australia in the final Test of the 2011/12 series in which India were infamously whitewashed. Suffice to say, it didn’t go well. Australia won by an innings, and Vinay only bowled 13 overs, in which he took 1-73. He didn’t play another Test.

He did play 31 ODIs and nine T20Is for India, however. But after being taken to the cleaners by the Australian batsmen in an ODI in November 2013 – Vinay conceded 102 runs for one wicket in his nine overs, the worst figures by an Indian in ODIs at the time – his international career ended.

Javagal Srinath

If Saini and Siraj are looking for a model to follow, they need to look no further. A young Srinath debuted in the first Test of the 1991/92 series in Brisbane, and went on to provide excellent support for spearhead Kapil Dev, taking 3-59 in the first innings, including the scalps of Geoff Marsh, Mark Waugh and Peter Taylor. He scored some handy runs from No.11 too, and did enough to earn an extended run.

Srinath would go on to become one of India’s greatest ever pacemen, carrying the burden of the whole attack during the Nineties. He played 67 Tests, took 236 wickets, and when he retired, he was the second-highest wicket-taking paceman for India in Tests. He also played 229 ODIs and claimed 315 wickets, the highest by a paceman for India.

He remains an all-time great, and a role-model for Saini and Siraj to follow, should they make their debuts this series.

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