Australia's Josh Hazlewood is among the best all-format pacers in the world, stemming from his exploits with the red ball. His innate ability to bowl Test-match lines and lengths, coupled with his impeccable control, makes him a tailormade prospect for the longest format of the game.
Hazlewood shares quite a bit of history with the Indian team. He made his debut during the Brisbane Test of the 2014 Border-Gavaskar Trophy and even claimed a five-wicket haul in the first innings. He has seen been part of an iconic pace trio that also includes Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc.
Much to Australia's chagrin, the New South Wales-born pacer will not compete in the first Test due to injury. An Achilles niggle to his left leg prevents him from playing and he is doubtful for the second Test in Delhi as well.
Despite pace bowling not being in the spotlight for the upcoming series on the subcontinent, the Aussies will miss the services of Hazlewood for the first Test in Nagpur starting on Thursday, February 9.
On that note, let's take a look at three reasons why Josh Hazlewood's absence from the first Test is a big blow to Australia.
#1 Hazlewood has a good record against India
As mentioned above, the right-arm pacer's career began with a five-wicket haul against India in 2014. Since then, he has faced the Men in Blue across 15 Tests, claiming 51 wickets at an average of 26.94.
This includes four five-wicket hauls, out of which his 5-8 came during the iconic day-night Test in Adelaide two years ago, where India were bundled out for a mere 36.
When it comes to playing in India, he has a good enough record as well. He has taken nine wickets in four matches at an average of 32.78. All of the appearances came during the 2016-17 Border-Gavaskar Trophy, which also led to his career-best figures of 6-67 in Bengaluru.
#2 Equally adept with both the new and old ball
For a pacer to succeed in India with the red ball, the player must be well proficient with the new ball and the old one, especially the latter. Fast bowlers will only find swing and little movement off the surface with the new cherry during the opening hour.
However, much like the spinners, the pacers also come into play as the ball gets older. The old ball brings reverse swing into the picture, piquing the interest of the pacers, and Hazlewood is among those who can get the ball to reverse pretty well.
The rather abrasive nature of pitches in the subcontinent causes the ball to rough up sooner, bringing the reverse swing into the equation much earlier than in Australian conditions.
#3 Brings balance and experience to the bowling attack
Hazlewood is among the players in the Australian squad who have had the experience of touring India in the past. Having completed nine years on the international circuit, the value he brings to the table with his experience is invaluable.
Ha has played 57 Tests, claiming 215 wickets at an average of 25.92. However, the options on the bench do not even come close in terms of experience, particularly in subcontinent conditions.
While Scott Boland, the bowler who fits Hazlewood's profile on paper at least, has had a stellar start to his international career since the 2021-22 Ashes, he has only played six matches, with all of them coming on home soil.
Lance Morris is a right-arm bowler who banks on his raw pace, making him completely different from Hazlewood. He is yet to make his debut for the national side after earning his maiden call-up ahead of the home series against West Indies in late 2022.
Apart from Hazlewood's experience, the balance he brings to the bowling attack is also crucial. He was the sole pacer to have played in all four Tests during Australia's last visit to India.
While it is a given that all three of them cannot feature in such conditions, Cummins would have loved to have Hazlewood by his side with the cherry, especially in Starc's absence.
Do you think Hazlewood's absence will hurt Australia in the first Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy? Let us know what you think.
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