By Lakshay Kumar Chowdhury
Remember the last time an Indian fast bowler took a five wicket haul against a strong batting side? Take a minute or two; it is okay if you end up scratching your head and not a single name comes to your mind. Happened with me too.
Whenever someone starts talking about the Indian Cricket team, they always talk about the laurels brought about by our batting side. But nobody talks highly of the bowlers and it looks like they haven’t done anything in recent times that can be talked about, apart from one or two heroics of Ravindra Jadeja, who is categorized as an all-rounder and a demi-god. One wonders how we managed to win the World Cup in ’11 with this kind of a bowling attack. The batsmen, some say, made up for the bowlers by scoring big but the lack of formidable bowlers comes to notice when the batsmen fail to deliver, as has been seen in the recent overseas tours.
It has been a long time since we have had a fast bowler rattling the opposition. Rookies like Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and others on the scene, showed some glimpse of fast bowling and then disappeared. Consequently, we have not been able to develop 5 fast bowlers that can be relied upon. The problem doesn’t end here. The spinning department hasn’t done wonders either. After the retirement of Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh lost all his charisma and subsequently, the likes of R Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha, and Amit Mishra have not been able to fill up the boots of our spinning legends.
Teams like Australia and England have different sets of bowlers for Tests and ODIs. Pakistan team has been regularly showcasing challenging fast bowlers. With every new series, they show the world a new face with a promise to deliver. India and Pakistan have a lot in common – Pakistan pitches are flatter than the Indian pitches. So why is it that they have bowlers who are warming the bench and we, on the other hand, have to search for three medium fast bowlers for every other series?
I am not a critic. I am an observer. I am of the opinion that the reasons must be analyzed in depth. I strongly disagree with the people who blame the selectors for the current situation. But I have to agree with the people who think that BBCI is responsible to some extent for the current scenario. Frankly speaking, the selectors have tried almost everyone. The scarcity of bowlers is depicted by the move of playing Vinay Kumar in a test match in Australia when apparently he was not even considered for the shorter format. He neither had the pace nor the swing and the move backfired. He was smashed all around the park with an economy of over 6, which is reason enough to worry in a test match.
The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of our bowlers is that they have a lack of breeding grounds. BCCI and the State Cricket Associations have been unable to prepare green tops where the bowlers can learn to control the swing of the ball. Ranchi is one ground where some lateral movement was seen during the IPL. Obviously, one single ground which holds a couple of games in a year can’t help improve the situation.
Secondly, BCCI needs to spend some money in hiring bowling mentors. We have an MRF bowling academy but it has not been backed by proper mentoring of the national level bowlers. One can argue that Pakistan does not have breeding grounds either but subsequently they have bowling mentors like Waqar Younis, Wasim Akram, Shoiab Akhtar – all masters of swing bowling.
Thirdly, our bowlers should concentrate on their diet and fitness regimes. People might find it amusing but one can’t run away from the fact that our bowlers don’t look threatening at all. Take Bhuvneshwar Kumar for instance. His body language doesn’t support his bowling. I haven’t seen him sledging any batsman. It’s all about getting to the batsman’s nerves. Mitchel Johnson used aggression to supplement his bowling. Ishant Sharma is 6 ft. tall and he bowls at mid-130 kmph. What’s the use of such a body when you can’t bowl at a menacing speed? In an interview, Brett Lee had asked Ricky Ponting about bowling line length or bowling fast and the amusing reply was “Bowl as fast as you can otherwise this will be your last match.” This is the psychology that Indian bowlers should force Mr. Dhoni to shift to by giving him the performances. MSD prefers spin over his fast bowlers because they haven’t earned his trust.
It is easier said than done. Things are not going to change in a fortnight but duration of change can be shortened. Bowlers need to learn and learn quickly from the mistakes as the World Cup 2015 is around the corner and we are yet to find some reliable bowlers who are certain to make it to the squad. Our bowling is an area of some serious concern as we generally lose the game in the last 10 -15 overs due to lack of specialists. When part timers bowl 7-10 overs on a regular basis and our strike bowlers don’t complete their quota of 10 overs, you don’t really need an expert to declare that it’s a dangerous sign.