Last Pune Test
Australia visited India for a four-Test series in the early half of 2017, which the host nation won by a 2-1 margin. In the only Test played at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium located at Gahunje in Pune, Australia beat India by 333 runs in the first match of the series. It was the first time since 2012 that India had lost a Test match at home.
On a dry pitch that assisted the spinners, India were bowled out for 105 and 107 in the first and second innings, respectively. KL Rahul was the only half-centurian for India in the match while Australian skipper Steven Smith showed patience to score 109 from 202 balls in the second.
A match that lasted only three days saw the Australian spinners Nathan Lyon and Steve O’Keefe take all 10 wickets in the second innings to turn this into a humbling defeat. O’ Keefe was adjudged as the man-of-the-match for his stupendous ten-wicket haul. The win was Australia’s first in India since the Nagpur Test in 2004.
Not much was made of this defeat as India showed great character to bury any hopes of a series win for Australia in India by winning two and drawing one. Defeat in the Pune Test was soon forgotten by Kohli’s men but it exposed Indian batsmen’s lack of application on a turning track.
Indians were given a bitter taste of their own medicine by producing a flat and dry track which backfired. Two and a half years later, India entered the Test series against South Africa with the same mentality of tying the Proteas batsmen on rank turners. Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja continue to head the spin department while Mohammed Shami has emerged as an important cog in the pace bowling department following Jasprit Bumrah's injury.
Bowling coach's opinion
Indian bowling coach, Bharat Arun accepted and defended India’s decision to produce flat tracks and challenged the visiting team to adapt to the home conditions in order to become the number one team in the world.
To be a good number one team in the world, any conditions that come your way, you got to accept and say these are home conditions….If you want to be the number team in the world, you got to look at the wickets and adapt your bowling instantaneously to be successful.
How an in-form Shami can change the fortunes
What Virat Kolhi’s side has changed since losing the last Test at this ground is a quality fast bowler in Mohammed Shami to take wickets on flat decks and reduce the focus on Ashwin and Jadeja. Shami hit the woodwork on four occasions in his five-wicket haul in the fourth innings of the first Test.
With the South Africans preparing hard to tackle the spin duo of Ashwin-Jadeja, the Indian camp successfully created a diversion in Mohammed Shami, who was lethal with the ball whilst taking the pressure of the spinners.
Out of his 158 Test scalps, 48 have seen him hit the wickets. Shami's nagging line forces batsmen to get rooted at the crease. His ability to seam the ball from just short of good length plants a seed of doubt in the batsmen's mind about putting their weight on either the front foot or the back foot.
Moreover, his consistent pace being in the 140-145kph mark further helps his case. Shami's good rate of picking up wickets in the second innings of matches since 2018 has also helped reduce Kohli's dependency on the spinners and made him a dangerous weapon at home.