The previous two tours to Australia saw the emergence of prodigious Indian pace-bowling talents in Irfan Pathan and Ishant Sharma. Both had progressed through U-19 ranks, the latter had even played a few Tests, but it was the tour Down Under that earmarked them as genuine prospects, bowlers who would serve India for a long period.
Irfan and Ishant chipped in with valuable wickets in India's maiden Test wins at Adelaide and Perth in 2003 and 2008 respectively. This season, it is the turn of Umesh Yadav to knock over a few Australian batsmen. The only difference is, Yadav is already an established act with prior experience of Australian conditions and currently the most potent fast bowling weapon, the hottest pace commodity in Indian cricket.
The management has decided to send him on the tour tomorrow itself - almost three weeks ahead of the first Test on December 26. Though he managed only four wickets from two matches during India's victory in the Emerging Players Tournament in Australia earlier this year, he silently pocketed some knowledge of the lengths to bowl on those true surfaces.
"I really enjoyed my time in Australia, learnt a lot about how to alter your length. You cannot bowl too short, it's important to stick to a good line and length. There isn't that much movement either. I am glad to be going there (Australia) so early, because it will help me adjust quickly. The team management has been taking care of me so well, they realise the need for bowlers to adjust to conditions," he told MiD DAY on his arrival in Nagpur from Ahmedabad yesterday.
Subroto Banerjee, who was taking his favourite pupil for dinner when this writer called him yesterday evening, said it would be a different challenge for Yadav in Australia. "He's been getting a lot of wickets (at home against West Indies) since debut but he knows that it won't be easy to knock over Australian batsmen. He's going to have to work on his length. The length cannot be too short... it's easy for young fast bowlers to get carried away looking at a bouncy surface. The Australians will feed off short balls, that's why getting the length right is the most important thing in Australia," he said.
"I think the management must be applauded for sending him on the tour so early. Bowling with the Kookaburra ball is not easy and he needs some time," added Banerjee, who was part of India's pace attack on the 1991-92 tour of Australia.
However, Banerjee felt Yadav would reap the rewards for discipline. "When you mature as a fast bowler, you can bowl in any conditions. Umesh is raw, but getting there. You can make out from his body language that he's never unfazed. He will get great help in Australia and I am expecting a super performance," he concluded.
Maiden trip to Australia for Tests
* 1991-92:Â Javagal Srinath took 10 wickets from five Tests at 55.30
* 1999-2000: Ajit Agarkar took 11 wickets from three Tests at 31.90
* 2007-08: Ishant Sharma took six wickets from three Tests at 59.66