India’s Woes Of Genuine Quickies
A country of 1.26 billion population is struggling to find a genuine quick bowler, which is an odd situation. For a country, which has gone above to love a sport that is not even its national game, the inability to find a speedster is a sorry and surprising situation. Team India, at first, struggle to find a bowler who can bowl consistently at 140-145 kph and somehow someone comes with a promise to do that but disappears or loses his speed dramatically. It has been the story of Indian team for generations. After the Kapil Dev’s and Javagal Srinath’s era, Team India continue to struggle for a bowler who could bowl with pace in death overs. Although, many bowlers were tried, and with a limited success too, no one stuck around for a longer period.
Zaheer Khan, S Sreesanth, RP Singh, Munaf Patel, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Varun Aaron, Ajit Agarkar, Ashish Nehra, Ashok Dinda and the list goes on and on, all have been tried, though successfully at times, but somehow, either they’ve got regularly injured, have lost form or some of them have lost their speed, which cost India in death overs. Fast bowling is an art that requires practice. But, in India and in the subcontinent, we rely heavily on spinners, hence, the nature of wickets is such that it kills the art of fast bowling.
India, traditionally being a spin-bowling bastion, produced such great bowlers as Erapalli Prassanna, Bishen Singh Bedi, Bhagwat Chandrasekhar, Srinivas Venkatraghavan, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, R Ashwin and the likes. The type of wickets produced in India (and to a certain extent in the Indian Subcontinent) is one reason why we struggle to produce the genuine fast bowlers. But, if this is true, how does Pakistan manage to produce genuine speedster at will? In the early days, Indian wickets were typically called “dust bowls”, which implies that the wicket is dry, doesn’t have any grass and as a result crumbles, thus producing the “dust bowl”. Another reason for dearth of fast bowlers is lack of inspiration, the limited number of fast bowlers who can be looked up to by an aspiring young fast bowler as an idol.
But in the current era, to become a No.1 side, you’ve to have a balanced bowling attack with at least one genuine quickie in the line-up. To do well outside the subcontinent or even in the subcontinent, you should have good pace attack. Days of getting 20 wickets in a Test and 10 wickets in an ODI are long gone now. The management does understand this fact and the set-up of MRF Pace Foundation, headed by Dennis Lillee, is an example of that. The MRF Pace Foundation has produced many fast bowlers over the years, but, the problem with them was that they somehow just faded away. Unlike Australia, South Africa, England and Pakistan, Indian bowlers failed to be consistent, and this resulted in their exit.
In recent times, India’s death bowling has suffered tremendously. India conceded 135 runs in their last ten overs in South Africa, which is the most they have conceded in the last ten overs in an ODI since 2000. Including that match, India have conceded 100 or more runs in the last 60 balls, 19 times–the second-highest after New Zealand, who have done so on 21 occasions. India ended up conceding exactly 100 runs in the last six overs in that match, only the fifth time a team has conceded 100 or more in an ODI during those overs since 2000.
In last few series, India have conceded 135, 64 in 9 overs, 88, 90, 110 (from 32-42 overs including batting power play), 81, 62 in 8.1 overs, 91, 71, 74, 70 runs in their last 10 overs bowling. Except for one occasion, all other stats were without power play overs. Interestingly, fast bowlers’ economy rate in Australia, England, New Zealand and South Africa in last 10 overs since April 2011 has been 8.33 and they have gone for a boundary on every 6th-7th delivery. Even in the ongoing Asia Cup, Indian seamers (Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami) failed to create any impact in death overs.
In India, when a new bowler comes on the scene he promises to be a genuine quickie and does well in first few matches. But, as he establishes himself in the team, he starts to lose pace and form and becomes a mere medium fast bowler. This suggests that a bowler needs guidance even after having played on the biggest stage. This can be done by establishing fast bowling academies like NCA, focused exclusively on the group of around 10 fast bowlers who play for India on a regular basis. Camps can be held during the break between series, where they can be coached on how to remain fit, keep the injuries to a minimum and enhance their area of specialty, i.e. a bowler who bowls above 140 kmph needs encouragement to push his pace further and add an element of swing to his bowling, a bowler who is good at swinging the ball but with limited pace needs to be encouraged to enhance this ability of his and also to add some tricks in his repertoire so that he can perform even better.
Also it is important for the curators to prepare sporting wickets at the grassroots levels so as to ensure that there are more young guns, willing to develop their fast bowling skills. Also, it is imperative that the Indian think-tank includes a good rotational policy, and provides the right training and development that prevents bowler from burning out. Unless such steps are taken in the right direction, India will never be able to find a solution for their fast bowling woes.
By Sorabh Aggarwal