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Sharp bowling, fielding has made MS Dhoni look in control

It had to be a batsman’s World Cup, didn’t it? The bowler was meant to be the waiter at the batsman’s party.

Written by Harsha Bhogle |
Updated: March 26, 2015 9:47:12 pm
India vs Australia, Australia vs India, IndvAus, AusvInd, World Cup 2015, 2015 World Cup, Cricket News, Cricket Mohammed Shami has bowled with pace and accuracy, helping him garner 17 wickets in six World Cup games so far. (Source: Reuters)

It had to be a batsman’s World Cup, didn’t it? Double hundreds, elastic imaginations, big bats, field restrictions…we’ve been through this. The bowler was meant to be the waiter at the batsman’s party. “Anything else I can serve up, Sir?” At various times, that has been true, but something else has happened. As the going has got tough, the bowlers who do a lot more with the ball than merely serving it up, have attracted attention.(Full Coverage| Venues | Fixtures)

You’ve got to be fast, or you have to bowl in angles and curved lines. Wahab Riaz was fast, Trent Boult bowled in curved lines and Mitchell Starc did both! Ravichandran Ashwin and Imran Tahir created the angles; the ball pitching and turning. The medium pacer, that very Indian bowling style over the years, vanished and the part-timer needn’t have bothered turning up. It is true of Australian pitches, and now of New Zealand, as it is of life itself: the more you put in, the more you get out.

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In such a scenario, you wouldn’t have thought India would get 70 wickets in 7 games. India’s approach has always been to outscore the opposition, here they have bowled them out. And they have done so because the bowlers have bowled with intent, with fire. They have put in more and so they have got out more. The earlier pattern was familiar. The new ball didn’t take wickets, the spinners got milked as a result and the end overs was celebration time for the opposition. India weren’t taking on the opposition with the ball, they were waiting to overwhelm them with their bats.

Now, Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami have bowled fast, well, sharp, but we are allowed to get carried away a bit! But where three good balls were followed by some hospitality on the pads, they have bowled consistent lines. You have had to score against them, you didn’t get anything free. Except against Ireland where the first wicket fell in the 15th over, there was a breakthrough in the first ten, often in the first five overs. And Mohit Sharma has bowled beautifully behind the new ball.

I have enjoyed watching him bowl. Like the little creatures you see on the Discovery channel, who put on a show of being bigger than they are, Mohit Sharma has bustled in, dug it short and pretended to be quicker than he actually is.

Imagine being 135 kmph and being given the job of bowling short! Like being a middleweight with your guard down against a heavyweight. But he has bustled in, it best describes him, and bowled his bouncer over the batsman’s right shoulder, rarely the free hit over the left. This discipline, with the new ball and with the bouncer, has made India’s bowling look a bit larger than life.

And Ashwin has bowled the best I have seen him. Shane Warne often talks about going back to the stock ball and bowling it about 75% of the time. Ashwin has done that with his off-break. For a start, he had to prove that he had it and having done so, he has spun it from a wonderfully tall action. Sometimes height is a deterrent for a spinner, but by releasing it high, Ashwin has got bounce. It has made the variation more effective.

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And so, where Dhoni was always looking for people to slow down the game, often to try and shut it down, he has been able to search for wickets. He has set attacking fields and has been backed by the best fielding side on the park for India. It has allowed Dhoni to be a different kind of captain and, as a result, he has looked fresh and in control.

Yes, the batsmen did well, if you are Indian you are meant to, but it is the bowlers that have made the difference. There isn’t a superstar there, just simple, gifted cricketers getting it right. The bowling has been good to see and hopefully the message will go down in Indian cricket.

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First published on: 26-03-2015 at 12:24:28 am

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