If you were to fire up your flux capacitor and hop into your DeLorean, would you go back and pick a different England or India team for the recently-completed second Test? More quick bowlers perhaps? Yes? No? Maybe?
We’re assuming that given access to time travel, the first thing you’d do is embark on a long and complex quest to install yourself in a position of selectorial influence for the 2024 Visakhapatnam Test. We feel this is a fair assumption.
We’re also assuming you’d want to influence the outcome of the match by picking a better version of the team you support, rather than through sabotage – say, by becoming an India selector and bringing back Ajit Agarkar.
So after tracking down a clear enough section of smooth road and accelerating to 88mph and getting yourself the chief selector job, who are you picking and why?
This website’s preview of the Vizag pitch suggested that for all the emphasis on spin, seamers often prove influential. And so it proved.
England’s sole seamer, James Anderson, was their most effective bowler with 3-47 in the first innings and 2-29 in the second. These aren’t spectacular figures, but throw in a couple more bowlers delivering a similar return and you’re winning most matches.
Or at least you are if the opposition doesn’t have a couple of Jasprit Bumrahs at its disposal, yorking your form batters and just generally smearing every inch of the place with excellence every time they take the ball.
One Jasprit Bumrah was enough for India on this occasion. If his 3-46 in the second innings helped secure the victory, his first innings 6-45 was where the game was won.
India did have another seamer though: Mukesh Kumar.
How did he fare?
Mukesh Kumar fared very badly. He took 0-44 off seven overs in the first innings and 1-26 off five overs in the second innings. The wicket he took was Shoaib Bashir. The last ball he bowled was walloped for four by Anderson.
What are we saying here?
Quick bowlers were more influential in this Test than most people expected. It seems odd, with hindsight, that only three were selected.
At the same time, the two quick bowlers who did well were James Anderson and Jasprit Bumrah. The other one on display, Mukesh Kumar, very much did not do well.
It could be that precisely because they are such exceptional practitioners of their art, James Anderson and Jasprit Bumrah are not exactly representative of the broader category of cricketers we tend to lump together as “quick bowlers”.
Maybe picking more quick bowlers would have been a good idea. Maybe it wouldn’t.
If we could time travel, this is what we’d do:
- Go into the future and gather scientific knowledge about physical durability and sporting longevity
- Go back and feed that information to young Jimmy and young Jasprit in the hope they’d act on that wisdom and that we’d consequently have them around for longer