'I would rate India 'A' higher than the IPL'
The disastrous showing in the first three Tests against England exposed a major chink in India's armoury. While England's replacement players stepped up and performed to expectation, India's poor bench strength became the talking point.
With senior players failing with the bat, and injuries to key bowlers adding to their woes, India looked clueless with the ball as they were thrashed at Lord's, Trent Bridge and Edgbaston, particularly by England's lower order.
Certainly, India's attack lacks a genuine fast bowler, one who can create fear in batsmen's minds and finish off the tailenders with fearsome pace and bounce.
But fast bowlers have always been a rare commodity in the country. Some, like Ishant Sharma and S Sreesanth, who started off as express bowlers, have flattered to deceive, their pace diminishing with increasing workload and injuries.
But, as they say, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. The emergence of Jharkhand youngster Varun Aaron offers much hope.
Aaron, who constantly bowlers in the high 140s (kmph), first made headlines when he delivered the fastest ball by an Indian ever, clocking an amazing 153kmph, against Gujarat in the Vijay Hazare Trophy final, in March. Playing for Delhi Daredevils, he also impressed in the fourth edition of the Indian Premier League.
More recently, the 21-year-old confirmed his growing potential by finishing as the top wicket-taker (10 wickets in four games) in the Emerging Nations tournament in Australia, where India emerged triumphant.
Speaking to Harish Kotian soon after returning from Down Under, Aaron revealed there's lot more to his bowling than just pace!
You were one of India's star performers with the ball in the Emerging Nations tournament recently, having taken 10 wickets in four games. Was this the highest level of cricket you competed in? How was the experience?
I have also played in the IPL, but I would rate India 'A' higher than the IPL. But you can't compare both, because Emerging Nations was a three-day match tournament, while the IPL is a Twenty20 tournament. It was a good experience; I learnt a lot.
Photographs: Getty Images
Image: Varun Aaaron
'Pace is an asset of mine'
How different was it playing in Australia, where the pitches offer assistance to fast bowlers?
To be honest, there was nothing on offer for the fast bowlers on those wickets. All the wickets were flat decks. Maybe, on the first morning there was something on offer, but, after that, it was completely flat.
You bowled the fastest ever delivery by an Indian, clocking 153kph in the final of the Vijay Hazare Trophy last year. How was it to break the 150kph barrier and also register the fastest ball by an Indian pacer?
I didn't realise it, because, for me, it was just another ball that I bowled. I only realised later that it happened. The guys in the dressing room told me that I had clocked 150kmph. I was kind of happy.
How difficult is it for a fast bowler to bowl long spells in domestic cricket, especially on pitches that are slow and low, the hot weather adding to it?
It depends on your fitness. If you work hard on your fitness, and your bowling in the off-season, then I don't think you will have a problem bowling long spells.
Is pace your main weapon?
Yes, pace is an asset of mine, but I do concentrate a lot on my line and length. I am also working on other variations, like the bouncers and yorkers.
Why does speed thrill you so much?
Pace is one of the main things for me, but, at the same time, it alone is not going to get you anywhere. You got to maintain a good line and length; you also got to have a good stock ball for yourself.
Fast bowlers are a rare commodity in India. When did it occur to you that you wanted to become a fast bowler? What was the thinking behind it?
I used to be a batsman when I was a kid, till I was 12 or 13. Then, I had taken some two months' off for my exams, and when I came back I took to bowling and started bowling. I realised at that time that I was bowling at a decent pace for a 14-year-old, so I thought why not give the Under-15 trials as a bowler.
I bowled decently in the trials and had a good season at the Under-15 level. Then I got picked up by MRF Pace Foundation the same year. I took it from there and always bowled fast thereon.
Image: Varun Aaron
'My favourite bowler is Andy Roberts'
You suffered a couple of stress fractures in the back last year. Did the thought of cutting down on your pace ever occur to you after that? We have seen many fast bowlers do that?
I recovered really well from the stress fractures. I did a lot of hard work at the NCA [National Cricket Academy in Bangalore] with the trainers and physios. Actually, the stress fractures healed really well and didn't bother me that much because I had it when I was 18 or 19. Usually it is a tender age for your back, and, if you are bowling quick at 18 or 19, you are likely to suffer from a stress fracture. But when you are young, the bone heals faster and I recuperated well from the stress fractures. You can see now I am totally fit.
You also impressed with your pace in this year's Indian Premier League? Did doing well against some top level batsmen in the IPL boost your confidence,?
Yes, playing in the IPL and doing well against good batsmen did help my confidence a lot.
Apart from pace, do you also possess other variations? Nowadays, the pitches are loaded heavily in favour of batsmen.
I bowl a decent yorker and a decent bouncer. I also cut the ball off the wicket. So those are the deliveries I have worked on.
Do you idolise any fast bowler?
I have never idolised anybody, but my favourite bowler is Andy Roberts.
You play for Jharkhand in domestic cricket. You may not have played alongside MS Dhoni, but how much of an inspiration is he? Have you ever got a chance to speak to him?
His success makes you think that if you are good, no matter where you play, you will make it. I haven't spoken to him because when I started playing Under-15 he made his India debut, so he is very senior to me.
Image: Varun Aaron