In the first session of play, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Varun Aaron came up with a couple of magical balls that showcased not just their varying skills but also their contrasting mindsets and divergent cricketing grooming. Aaron knocked back Moeen Ali’s off-stump with a ball bowled in the high 140 kmphs, while Bhuvneshwar, several yards slower, induced the faintest of edges from Ian Bell’s bat to dismiss him caught behind.
These two vital blows before lunch kept India in the game and the series. With no play possible after tea because of that dreaded Manchester rain that devastated the outfield and rendered it too soggy to play on, England finished at 237/6 — leading India by 85 runs at the end of Day Two. Showers and India’s pacers had not allowed Bell, Ali or England to bat India out of the fourth Test.
Those two memorable scalps, talking points during the long rain break, were the kind bowlers return to during a slump to stay positive or while ‘ego surfing’ to kill time. “Manchester + fourth Test + England first innings” is what Bhuvneshwar and Aaron are expected to google when depressed or bored in the future. Aaron’s monstrous in-swinger to the left-handed Moeen Ali was the kind Waqar Younis used to bowl to bruise egos and break toes. Bhuvneshwar’s precisely pitching ball at the “there, thereabouts” length which moved just that little bit had Glenn McGrath’s signature all over it.
At the ‘School of Speedsters’, Waqar and McGrath are the two high priests. They are deans of two different streams of pace bowling that divide young pacers very early in their cricketing lives.
In early 2000, two teenagers, with no grand dream of playing for India back then, took this all-important call. One loved his pace and was willing to sprint down the run-up and bend his back. He wanted to be a tearaway and thrilled at the sight of cartwheeling stumps. He was of course Aaron, who calls all of India his home because of his father’s transferable job at Mico Bosch.
Presently, his parents stay in Pune while he is based out of Bangalore, though he plays for Jharkhand. He is a city slicker who knows Malayalam but prefers conversing in English. He is a product of the MRF Pace Academy, the institution that has thrown up several 140-plus bowlers, who mysteriously go slower after wearing India colours.
Aaron seems to be an exception. Today the bowler, who first hit headlines by clocking 150 kph in a domestic game, repeatedly clocked spells in the high 140s. Returning to international cricket after a stress fracture-related back surgery, he wasn’t holding back continued…