The test Down Under is already underway, and if the results or the scorecards of the tour games are taken into account, raw pace looks like the way forward, at least for India. The Indian seam attack, led by the experienced Ishant Sharma, boasts of bowlers with some decent pace. As the Men in Blue, in whites, prepare for the Kangaroos, we analyse the Indian pace battery:
Bhuvneshwar Kumar:One of India’s best take-aways from the England Test series, Bhuvneshwar is like an albatross- light weight, easy on the eye and his deliveries just glide along. Majority of his success in England was because of his ability to swing it both ways, but in Australia its the bounce that will have to be used.
Swing– Bhuvneshwar has the impeccable ability to get the ball to move laterally in both directions. Though the Australian pitches will need him to do more than that, if given the new ball he can use the red cherry to make the most of what little sideways movement that is on offer to test the Aussie top order.
Simple action: Is that really a strength? Yes I think so. Why? Because that’s the secret to remaining injury free, Bhuvi has a smooth, easy on the eyes action. His run-up, delivery stride and follow through don’t really put too much stress on his body and in a long tour that too before the all important World Cup you really want to stay fit and free of even the slightest niggle.
Length: One of the main reason’s Bhuvi has been so economical despite not being express quick is the areas where he get the ball to land. He is almost never too full or too short and can bowl a well disguised slower ball (Which he may hardly need in Australia.) He can consistently get the ball to land in the block-hole and not allow the batsmen to get underneath deliveries also making it difficult to drive.
WEAKNESSES: Lack of pace: Bhuvneshwar’s quickest ball may be in the high 130s good enough for the crack filled and placid Subcontinent wickets but may not be enough in places like the WACA and other pacy tracks. He will have to compensate for his medium pace by variation in length and changing angles, while hoping that deliveries don’t sit up waiting to be tonked over the massive boundaries.
Stamina: Throughout the England series Bhuvi appeared to be hit by fatigue faster than few other bowlers, one may argue that he bowled more evers but at top international level you simple have to step up when someone else fails. The Australia tour is long and assuming that he will be Dhoni go to bowler, he better be prepared to put in those extra overs.
Ishant Sharma: Unpredictability is perhaps Ishant’s greatest strength and weakness. The tall Delhi pacer has all the qualities it takes to be one of the best pacers in the world but consistency and Ishant are not best of friends.
STRENGTHS: Height/Bounce: Ishant is 6’3″ tall and the ball comes down from his hands at a good 1.5 feet higher- 7’6″. Ideal for the bouncy Australian pitches, provided the ball lands in the good areas to trouble the batsmen.
Reverse Swing: Ishant’s pace is between 135-140 and when the red Kookaburra loses its sheen we can expect it to reverse. Dhoni may well use Ishant in the latter stages and perhaps even middle segments. Ishant has made subtle changes to his wrist position prior to delivery and may well be rewarded in the more pacy Australian wickets.
WEAKNESSES: Inconsistency: Ishant is rhythm and confidence bowler, any small dent to either sets him totally off track and he ends up looking nothing like his best. Despite being India’s most experienced Test bowler in the squad Ishant has not been able to follow with his good performances with equally good or better ones.
Bowling action(Follow through): Why I picked this? Because Ishant has had some really embarrassing face-first falls on the 22 yard strip. His follow through is nothing short of bizarre and his legs almost follow each other in unison, considering his height and the amount of pressure a fast bowler puts on his ankles while landing his/her back foot contact and front foot contact need to be as smooth and ergonomic as possible. Ishant clearly has to work on his landing, he may not risking an ankle injury but will also be putting lot of stress on his lower back.
Mohammed Shami: Is my pick to shine in Australia. Why? Because he is the highest wicket taker in 2014, something that will be a massive confidence booster to the young man and more importantly he has all that takes to do well on bouncy and fast pitches- pace, bounce, swing and a fantastic yorker.
STRENGTHS: Pace, bounce and the yorker: Shami consistently touches the 140-145 kph mark and the quicker pitches are expected to make that even more pacey than it appears. He can afford to vary his length and line a bit to find the ideal combination as he has the pace to hurry up the batsman. The yorker is all season, all pitch delivery and Shami is by far India’s best yorker bowler, though you wouldn’t be bowling many toe crushers in the 5 day game, it is a good surprise delivery to unsettle a new comer and also to get rid of a tired batter.
WEAKNESS: Predictability: Shami is only 9 Test matches old and still needs to learn a lot in the art of deception. Working with Wasim Akram in the Kolkata Knight Riders he would have picked up a trick of two. The man who discovered this raw talent, current Tamil Nadu and KKR batting coach WV Raman holds him in very high regard and believes he can be one of India’s best fast bowlers, not without much reason. An experienced batsman will quickly assess Shami’s length and line and also get a hold of the intervals at which he bowls his slower balls and yorkers. This along with overuse of the short ball may be Shami’s only undoing.
Umesh Yadav: Again just 9 Tests old but is has come a long way from being that raw pace machine. He has grown over the years and in the limited overs format is quite a reliable end overs bowler. His stalk delivery is the one that marginally swings away from the right hander at about 145 kph. When required he can get the ball to move at 150+ kph.
STRENGTHS: Pace: Pace, pace and pace. A few years back India didn’t have many answers to the likes of Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle in terms of speed. But now with the presence of Umesh, Shami and Aaron we have a good lot of quicks who can bowl at 150 kph. Umesh just has to find his line and length his pace will do the rest for him, just about short of good length clocking at 145+ kph could be his stock delivery.
WEAKNESSES: Gives away too many runs: Though Umesh is a wicket taker and got some vital early breakthroughs in England his inconsistent line and length was punished too often. He tends to bowl too many half volleys on leg stump allowing the batsman to put it away behind square or anywhere on the leg side. He sometimes resembles what Shaun Tait used to be for the Aussies, when he clicked he absolutely floored opponents and when he didn’t leaked too many runs. Dhoni & Virat will be aware of this and may have to insist that he bowl to his field to avoid damaging his bowling figures.
Varun Aaron: May have caught the bus just in time, his quadriceps strain seems to have healed well and he was on song in the first practice match against CA XI. Aaron has shown lot of promise but his more than fair share of injuries has made the Jharkand pacer miss many crucial games and series.
STRENGTHS: Pace: Aaron in many ways is very similar to Umesh Yadav, the only difference perhaps is their actions. Bowling at 145+ is Aaron’s USP and he is India’s fastest on record, all he needs to do is make sure the deliveries he fires in land in the right spots or else they’ll be landing in the crowd.
WEAKNESSES: Inconsistency and Heavy Action: Aaron has the dubious record of conceding runs almost at the pace at which he bowls. He must find the right channel to bowl to the right and left handed batsmen to pick wickets and keep them from scoring too many. His action is has always drawn the attention of many critics and coaches. Aaron is not very tall and yet bowls at 145+ his main problem is in the delivery stride phase, more precisely his back foot landing. His injury list clearly indicate that he put more than accepted stress on his back and upper limbs, hence the frequent back strains and quadricep tears. In lieu of generating more pace Aaron cannot afford to flirt with injury as his presence in the pace battery is vital for India.