It has been a year of dominance, conquests and brutality. It has been a year of unfathomed successes and resounding results as Virat Kohli’s team managed to evade obstacles and challenges in their journey to the pinnacle. Ever since the Indian cricket t eam shifted its power-house from the maverick MS Dhoni to the charismatic Kohli, the Men in Blue have tasted dosages of sweet victories that have earmarked them as world-beaters.
Despite the few blips that have greeted them in 2017, the term “outplayed” has rarely been associated with the team's losses. India has made its intention to continue its progress to higher hills clear. As the Indian team marched forward to Guwahati after having traumatised Australia in the ODI series and the first T20 match, it was an unsaid assumption that the second T20 game in the Barsapara Cricket Stadium, which was hosting its first ever day-night match, would be historic to say the least.
35.3 overs later, it had turned out to be historical day indeed, albeit for Jason Behrendorff as he romped his way to figures of 4/21 in his four overs, casting aside the numerous injuries incurred over the last three years that derailed his entry into the national team.
16 balls that mapped Behredorff in international cricket
Playing in just his second international game, Behrendorff was eager to catch onto the hard-earned opportunity after years of disappointments and injury trails. After a blink-and-a-miss debut in Ranchi, the 27-year old, with 57 wickets in 40 T20 games at an average of 18.56, already remains Australia’s most sort-after T20 player and would have ideally liked to dish in a performance that could have instantly caught hold of the eye of the selectors before the team for the Ashes was to be announced.
Sixteen balls and four wickets later, he had managed to do just that.
With Rohit Sharma starting out on an attacking note, Behrendorff’s deliveries seemed navigable without posing much threat to the in-form Sharma. A full toss was spanked away to backward point and even a perfectly timed inswinger was rushed away towards the mid-off for a four. On the verge of being mercilessly hammered and discarded away, the Aussie quickly managed to turn back the inaccuracies, displaying a streak of fast bowling that remained highly pleasing.
0.4 overs - Full and pitching in line, Behrendorff’s perfectly straight inswinger struck Sharma plumb in front of the wickets. The late swing of the delivery after pitching middle and off pushed Sharma to uncertainty and the Australian picked up his first wicket in international cricket.
0.6 overs - With the audience expecting Kohli to go berserk, chanting and cheering for the skipper in tandem, Behrendorff took it upon himself to silence the 35,000-strong crowd with a delivery that pitched in the good length and slightly nipped back in as Kohli tried to play across the line. The Australians went in appeal for an LBW but as the ball popped in the air off the pad, the bowler had successfully claimed a caught and bowled. As Kohli walked back to the pavilion, having recorded his first ever duck in T20 internationals, the nation was forced to stay up and ponder
2.2 overs - After being hit for a boundary by Manish Pandey, Behrendorff quickly managed to adapt to the batsman’s weakness of not covering the line of the ball. With Pandey staying on the leg-side even to an outside off delivery, Behrendorff managed to angle across the ball which came on straight, while Pandey anticipated an inswinger. A clever wicket in just his eighth ball of the innings showed glimpses of the maturity that was held by the bowler.
4.3 overs - With India reeling at 27/3, the Australian fielders remained pumped and sensed a rare chance in the series to push India further under the mat. A good length delivery by the bowler Behrendorff was pounced on by the stand-in skipper David Warner and the Australian team roared in an unexpressed excitement.
27/4 in less than 5 overs. Not only was the team on a rampage, but Behrendorff had managed to stake a claim in the Ashes squad with a worthy performance against the top-order of a team that had ruthlessly stamped its authority in world cricket.
A trail of injuries and comebacks
Being a fast bowler entails its own challenges that one has to constantly cast aside. Not only are the pitches in the world undergoing drastic changes, seen amply by the flat tracks on offer at the WACA in Perth, which was once considered as one of the bounciest pitches in the world, but the balance between the bat and the ball has unarguably tilted towards the former. The advent of T20 cricket has hampered the legacy of the bowling unit and the onset of injuries that affect a fast bowler can reduce his cricket playing heydays in large numbers.
Behrendorff was no different to the struggles. Born in Sydney, the youngster made his List A debut for Western Australia at the age of 20. In the very first ball that he bowled, he dismissed Tasmania’s Mark Cosgrove, further impressing the selectors that had handpicked him after spotting him in a trial game. He made his Sheffield Shield debut against Victoria in November 2011, picking up 4/76 in the game and was awarded the “Future Legend” title at the Western Australian Cricket Association’s annual ceremony.
He did not fail to live up to this title and constantly competed with Nathan Coulter-Nile for a regular spot in the Western Australian side. He was picked to play for the Perth Scorchers in the Big Bash League, and although five other players are ahead of him in the all-time wicket taking list, his average of 19.02 and economy of 6.95 are better than the rest.
However, his sparks of brilliance were inevitably disrupted by the series of injuries that refused to leave Behrendorff’s side. Starting with an Achilles injury in 2014 that kept him out of the game for five months, the lanky bowler has since then suffered stress fractures in his back, leg and spine in the course of three years. Last year, he looked well on course for a debut in the Australian summer but a fracture of the left fibula left him devastated and crippled.
He made a comeback in the Sheffield Shield match against Victoria in February this year, picking up a haul of 14/89, which was the tournament’s second best figure. He picked up 9/37 in the first innings and thus mapped his route towards determined performances in the future. An astounding 123 wickets in just 29 First-Class games at an economy of 3.12 gives glimpses of the calibre of the Australian.
The T20 performance changes the fast-bowling pool for the Ashes
As selector Mark Waugh left a congratulatory message for Behrendorff after he was picked for the T20 matches against India, the seamer was already eager to pitch in a contribution that would take him on course to a Baggy Green call-up.
With James Pattinson ruled out of the Ashes tourney with a lower back stress, the onus is on the selectors to choose a bowler who would complement Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazelwood and Pat Cummins in the reputed series. With Coulter-Nile scalping the most wickets in the ODI series against India and Jachkson Bird and Chadd Sayers in the fray, Behrendorff’s selection might not seem as easy as it seems.
However, Justin Langer argues that Behrendorff’s swing augurs well for the Australian line-up with his left-arm bowling offering variety to the squad. With Starc constantly breaking down in injuries, Behrendorff stands as a talent who can stamp his own niche amidst the right-handers in the Australian bowling unit. Possessing pace, consistency and a tight line and length, that was on full display in Guwahati, the national team, that already bears a menacing look, could do well to have the youngster on board in their quest of the Ashes.