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Josh Hazlewood remains Australia’s biggest trump card in the series against India, where spinners are being touted as match-winners © Getty Images

The ‘Bendemeer Bullet’ is here. ‘Hoff’, as he is fondly known, Josh Hazlewood occupies a special place in the Australian camp, which is set to begin the toughest test in India. To put it as straight as possible, he remains their biggest trump card in a series where spinners are being touted as match-winners. An unrelenting bowler who is brutally tight with his line and lengths, Hazlewood has already shown prime form in the series against Pakistan, snaffling 15 wickets in 3 Tests at 19.60. While the argument will remain on the lines of Australia not getting pitches resembling those at home, it goes out of the equation as far as Hazlewood is concerned.

Hazlewood thrives not only on the bounce which the wicket has to offer, but the line and lengths at which he can bowl at, on a consistent basis. He can use the seam movement to great effect, and can also surprise the batsman with the odd bouncer aimed at his head. One of the specialties that Hazlewood has is to make the ball swing away late from the right-handers, which has helped him garner many wickets.

He consistently troubled Hashim Amla during the 2016 Test series at home, and has remained at the forefront of many Australian victories in both Tests and ODIs. While his limited-overs feats will not be of any consideration on this trip to India, Hazlewood’s exploits in Test cricket is what makes him one of the most dangerous bowlers on the block at the moment.

Hazlewood has missed only one Test so far since making his debut on a hot and humid day in Brisbane against India, during their previous Border-Gavaskar Trophy two years back. Like the others, Hazlewood struggled to make an impact on Day One as India batted first, but returned strongly on the next day to join the list of bowlers who have taken five-fors on debut. He became the 33rd Australian to achieve the feat.

The only Test that Hazlewood has not played in his career was the fifth and final in the Ashes 2015, when he was dropped for being mentally fatigued. Hazlewood admitted that he expected a lot off him and pushed himself harder to get results which he eventually did not, and treats the tour as a crucial learning curve in his growth and development as a fast bowler.

Hazlewood has taken wickets home and away in the similar passion, and knowing his control over the ball, the tour of India will present a stern but an exciting challenge to one of the most exciting young fast bowlers who are integral part of their teams.

A tall fast bowler with a smooth bowling action, Hazlewood generates a lot of pace by keeping his hands close to his body while running in. His action has remained similar to what was devised early on in his playing days. Hazlewood’s coach John Muller, in Tamworth, a neighbouring town in New South Wales (NSW) town of Bendemeer, had advised the fast bowler to keep his arms close to his body while running up. It is something that has remained with the ‘attentive’ Hazlewood ever since, which makes his coach proud as well.

Accuracy and being persistent with it is one of the greatest talents that Hazlewood possesses, and he remains one of those cricketers who have excelled in this sport by bringing in their learning from other games. At the age of 10, Hazlewood had won gold medals in both discus and shotput events at the National Primary Schools Athletic Championships in Melbourne. Certainly, possessing a good arm with accuracy is something that has stayed on with Hazlewood from his early days.

Hazlewood was one of the five pupils in his primary school in Bendemeer before moving to Tamworth and then Sydney. The rise was swift, as he became the youngest fast bowler at 17 to represent New South Wales (NSW) when he played for them in a tour match against the touring New Zealand side. He was added in the Australian squad to tour India in 2010 at 19, but stress fractures in his back ruled him out of the tour. Nevertheless, Hazlewood went on to make his ODI debut against England at Southampton in July 2010.

But before that, Hazlewood had played a crucial role in Australia Under-19’s win in the 2010 World Cup. Hazlewood had finished as the third highest wicket-taker in the tournament with 13 dismissals in 6 matches, which includes a spell of 8.4-1-30-4 in the final. Hazlewood was awarded the Man of the Match in the final against Pakistan.

It was not just his skills that made Hazlewood stood out since the beginning. His attitude of being a quick learner and a persistent bowler who tends to observe the batsmen against his bowling has helped him garner success. His attitude has always won favours in all teams that he has played, and helped him progress quickly. Hazlewood does not study a batsman in video footages as much as he does when he starts bowling at him initially, which helps him to gather fresh inputs.

Hazlewood comes across as a no-nonsense cricketer who, at times, has been caught at the wrong end as well. During Australia’s tour of New Zealand, an agonisingly close leg-before decision against Kane Williamson had Hazlewood yelling at the Sri Lankan umpire Ranmore Martinesz when the decision – which was reviewed – went against him. A yorker had struck Williamson straight on his boot and it looked that the Kiwi captain was in trouble, but the third umpire declared the batsman not out on a DRS review. Angry, as well as frustrated, Hazlewood was caught yelling ‘who the f*$* is the third umpire’ in the stump microphone when the decision came out. To Hazlewood’s defence, it looked out to the naked eye.

While the other bowlers around him, such as Mitchell Starc, hog all the limelight with their sharp yorkers and unplayable bouncers, Hazlewood goes about his job as any other workhorse usually does. But accuracy is what earns him success and there are no surprises in learning that after 26 Tests, Hazlewood stands exactly where the great McGrath did once in his career. Hazlewood has taken 109 wickets so far compared to McGrath’s 110 after 26 Tests, and the average of the two bowlers is identical as well. Hazlewood can draw a lot of pride by having his average of 24.78 looking almost identical to McGrath’s 24.9 at this stage.