Zaheer Khan had bowled 43 overs in New Zealand’s second innings by the close of play on Day Four. Only once in his career did he bowl more: 48 overs in St John’s against the West Indies in 2002. But that was over eight and a half sessions as the West Indies batted almost three days.
He was 23 years old then. The body could take a lot more workload. Let’s analyse what kind of a workload we are talking about here.
He takes 15 strides in his run up. He doesn’t run in full tilt, therefore, the average stride length, by a conservative estimate, is roughly 1.5 metres. Add another four steps of follow-through. Which means, in an over, he runs about 170 metres. In the second innings, therefore, his 35-year-old body was made to run about approximately 7.3 kilometres just to bowl. No wonder then that towards the end, it looked like he was almost dragging himself around in the field.
Were India a bowler short? Could a fast bowler here have shared the workload that Zaheer, Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami carried?
The answer is subjective, and can be argued endlessly.
Another fast bowler in place of the lone spinner doesn’t really lighten the existing burden. Ravindra Jadeja, for example, bowled 49 overs. Had there been an extra fast bowler in his place, all those overs would still have to be bowled. Playing five bowlers (four seamers plus one spinner), meanwhile, is not an option. “The kind of combination we have at the moment, you can’t have four seamers and a spinner. Your batting line-up becomes weak,” says Cheteshwar Pujara.
However, a fourth fast bowler — an Umesh Yadav — could have brought much-needed edge to the proceedings when the things were not going India’s way on Sunday and Monday.
But let’s not consider what might have been and focus on what was. Ishant Sharma was one over short of his all-time mark, 40, set in Adelaide in 2008. Though he is 10 years younger than Zaheer, his stride is significantly longer which directly means more kilometres to run.