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What's wrong with India's bowling?

March 11, 2014 08:08 IST

What's wrong with India's bowling?

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'We don't have variety among our current crop of bowlers. Neither can they bowl fast nor can they swing the ball.'

'Until you have a wrist spinner when you tour abroad you cannot win matches.'

'The current crop of bowlers, instead of learning, are thinking about length and fitness while bowling in the nets.'

Bikash Mohapatra lends an ear as experts make an assessment of India's bowling woes.

I don't want to talk about this," said Venkatesh Prasad, when asked about the current state of Indian bowling.

Further pleas, persuasion and requests yielded the same response, in that trademark polite tone.

Prasad was Team India's bowling coach from mid-2007 before being unceremoniously sacked by the Board of Control for Cricket in India in October 2009. He has moved on and, palpably, did not want to make any statement that would create controversy.

Not that the national team's bowling performance can be explained in any other manner.

The last four months have witnessed Team India suffer humiliating series defeats in South Africa and New Zealand, failing to win a single match on either of the tours, and also make an early exit at the Asia Cup.

While the batting hasn’t been up to potential, save a few moments of individual brilliance, the biggest reason for the debacles was the failure with the ball, especially when closing out matches. The opening Test against South Africa at the Wanderers and the second Test against New Zealand at the Basin Reserve are glorious examples of the same.

The Indian bowlers, bluntly put, have been hapless.

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Image: Bhuvneshwar Kumar during a nets session of Team India
Photographs: Anesh Debiky/Gallo Images/Getty Images

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'We don't have variety among our current crop of bowlers'

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So what is it that makes the Indian bowling toothless?

"Our bowlers go for pace overseas," explained Manoj Prabhakar.

"They need to realize they neither have the pace nor the class of a fast bowler. In going for pace they compromise on the swing," added the former player.

Prabhakar proceeded to elaborate on his views.

"I'd say we don't have variety among our current crop of bowlers. Neither they can bowl fast nor can they swing the ball," he explained, adding, "Also, the bowlers need top bowl in pairs, support each other. That's not the case with the Indian team.

"If [Mohammed] Shami, for example, is bowling well at one end, he doesn't have anyone to keep it tight at the other.

"Sadly, there's no one there to help them out."

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Image: Mohammed Shami
Photographs: BCCI

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'Our quick bowlers have been made ineffective'

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Another former India spinner Maninder Singh put the blame on the incumbent bowling coach.

"If you bowl to take wickets, you tend to put the pressure on the batsmen, even if you are not getting the wickets," he explained.

"Our quick bowlers, as such, have been made ineffective. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, for example, was doing so well in India. So why did he struggle abroad?

"Simply because he wasn't bowling the right length. Joe Dawes made him bowl a length befitting a bowler who regular hits speed in excess of 140kph," he added.

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Image: Zaheer Khan looks on during a nets session
Photographs: Hamish Blair/Getty Images

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'The main problem is the coach'

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Prabhakar concurred with his former teammate's opinion about Dawes.

"The main problem is the coach," he said, before proceeding to point out what, according to him, were the three main problems with the Indian bowling.

"Firstly, outside India, most of the countries use the Kookaburra ball. Our bowlers keep struggling with the Kookaburra ball despite us having an Australian coach," explained Prabhakar.

"Secondly, until you have a wrist spinner when you tour abroad you cannot win matches. Finger spinners will always struggle to spin it outside India," he continued.

"Thirdly, if your medium pacers can't bowl in the first five and the last five overs, then your attack is a waste. How long can you win matches with your batting?"

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Image: Manoj Prabhakar
Photographs: Reuters

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'Why pick Umesh Yadav when you don't have the confidence in him?'

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According to Madan Lal, hero of the 1983 World Cup-winning team, the main problem lies in the team selection.

"Zaheer [Khan] isn't getting any younger. Bhuvneshwar cannot be your strike bowler. [At most, he can get you a couple of wickets, once in a while]," he said.

"And Shami is going to burn out if they bowl him like this," continued Madanlal, adding, "In my opinion he should have been rested for the Asia Cup."

He proceeded to question other decisions made by the selectors.

"Where's Umesh Yadav? Why pick him in your team when you don't have the confidence in him?," he asked.

"Besides, Varun [Aaron] hadn't played any first class cricket when he was made to bowl in New Zealand. If a fast bowler hasn't done enough endurance training he is bound to struggle," added Madanlal.

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Image: Umesh Yadav
Photographs: Mark Dadswell/Getty Images

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'You need to practice as if you are playing in a match'

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Maninder made another valid point.

"A bowler tends to learn when he bowls for long hours at the nets. You need to practice as if you are playing in a match.

"The current crop of bowlers, instead of learning, are thinking about other things like line, length and fitness while bowling at the nets," he explained.

Whatever be the reason, fact remains that bowling, traditionally India's weak point, has reached its nadir. It'll take a lot of work, some tough decisions and considerable time to better things. There's no quick fix solution to this malady.

And considering the national team in on the road for most of the year, this is not good news.


Image: Maninder Singh
Photographs: Ben Radford/Allsport
Tags: India

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