Written by Sriram Veera | Auckland | March 13, 2015 5:46 am
For quite a few years now, barring Zaheer Khan, Indian seamers never quite gave the feeling that they were setting up a batsman. The greatest joy in watching seamers lies in their intelligence, and patience, in the laying of the trap. In watching their brains tick. Indians, somehow, never had the patience and cricketing intelligence for this art form. Until, this World Cup that is.
Even now, the set-up isn’t in the league of that wonderful Mohammad Asif of Pakistan. Of course, for that requires a far greater skill, but the Indians have been disciplined, patient, and tremendously focussed with the basics of fast bowling. They have been boringly attractive.
It would require an Indian bowler to come out and openly speak about the difference in the atmosphere created by the foreign bowling coaches Joe Dawes and Eric Simons, and the conviviality of a Bharat Arun, as anything else would be a guess work. But one can conjecture about something far more interesting.
Has the absence of Ishant Sharma actually helped this one-day team? This is going to be obviously harsh on Ishant, and his fans might wince, but hear me out, please. That post-pubescent voice, that earnestness, that willingness to work hard, and that sincerity that isn’t easy to find in young international cricketers make it easier to like Ishant. But when the senior-most bowler is the poster boy of erraticism, blowing hot and cold within a spell, how are the youngsters going to change?
The easiest thing to say about Ishant is that he is unlucky. Looked through a different prism, he makes his own luck. He has the best wicket-taking deliveries of the modern lot of Indians — the big inswinger, the sharp lifter from short of length, and even the one that straightens, but somehow they rarely come together consistently.
The lack of discipline, perhaps never for want of trying, for he is a real hard worker, can be contagious. Suddenly, without him, the bowlers have perhaps realised that they better be consistent with their lines and lengths, else they can be slaughtered. Standing at fine-leg when Mohammad Shami has just seen Mohit Sharma, the most disciplined of the lot, come up with an honest effort and its positive result, he will be almost forced to come back with a disciplined performance.
There is no one who is straying, no one pushing the ball down leg, and especially when there is no clear leader of the attack, the rest are almost forced to join hands to come up with something simple and consistent. Especially in a one-day game.
The kindest thing that one can say about Ishant is that he is still young and has the time and the skill to turn it around. The saddest part is that we have been saying that previous line about him for a few years now. Perhaps, his absence has led to an absence of erraticism from this attack. Too harsh? May be, but how many times great bowlers have spoken about hunting in pairs, or being inspired from the man leading the attack. There has to be some co-relation; they can’t all be lying about it.
Suddenly, almost shockingly, the Indian bowlers have transformed into Australians of the old. Shami is pinging the short-of-length outside off stump. On a loop. Ball after ball, the ball leaps from back of length and whizzes past the off stump. Mohit Sharma is getting the short ball to skid quickly but otherwise most of his deliveries form a mound at a good length spot just outside off.
Even Umesh Yadav, the quickest, is landing it pretty accurately, at least more than ever before.
The one thing that is common to all the three is that they have a fairly reproducible action. That’s why their performances in Australia before this tournament was saddening. Despite their actions — unlike say Ajit Agarkar and Ishant who depended so much on rhythm and were so much ‘on his day’ bowlers — these current Indian bowlers should, in theory, be able to be more consistent. Of course, they haven’t been.
The discipline they have showed in this event, though, has been admirable. Interestingly, it has come in an atmosphere that has killed many a stereotype. India needs a foreign fast bowling coach; they have Bharat Arun now. Indians aren’t fast enough; they are bowling in 140kmphs now. Indians don’t bowl bouncers; they have been the bowlers who have been taking most wickets out of them. Indians can’t just bowl a simple line and length; they have been metronomic in their pursuit of “right areas”. Indians can’t bowl to a field set by their captain; for the first time their captain MS Dhoni has been singing paeans to that ability.
From the bowlers’ end
“What the bowlers are doing is something that I have not seen for a long time, particularly with the Indian team set up,” Dhoni said. “You used to keep telling them bowl to one line, bowl one line, and that creates pressure and everything like that. But it was more like a said thing that was listened by them. But now they have seen it and they have tasted it. It all depends on execution. You may have two slips, but if the bowler bowls on the pads, it doesn’t really look good. I feel that’s where the remarkable difference has come from the bowlers end. They’re bowling according to the plans. At the same time they’re quite aware of the field and they’re bowling according to the field, which is a big change. It’s reflecting in our performance so far. It’s made a remarkable difference.”
For once, Dhoni hasn’t been forced to wave his hands around too much and keep changing the field. Instead, his bowlers have been bowling to the set fields. Can this last till the end of the World Cup or will the pressure of the knockouts get to these inexperienced seamers?