Home > Features >

India need to groom seamers to hunt in packs

Mohammed Shami © Getty Images
Mohammed Shami needs support from other seamers for India to make their mark on overseas tours © Getty Images

Why can’t Indian fast bowlers hunt in packs as effectively as those in some of the other countries do? Karthik Parimal tries to explain.

The South African and neutral observers were perhaps filled with a sense of savoury when Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel and Wayne Parnell, like wolves hunting in packs, dismantled the Australian top-order with a ferocity unique to them. It was almost two hours of pure testament to the charm of Test cricket. While Steyn, Philander and Morkel kept swinging the red leather with proficiency endowed to very few, Parnell scalped the unsuspecting batsmen in the form of Alex Doolan and Shaun Marsh — both chief architects of Australian victory at Centurion, who probably expected a let-up from the searing examination at the other end.

The brief passage of play was an indication of why a team with a robust bowling line-up is bound to taste victory more often than not. If propped by a fine set of batsmen, these bowlers spew extra venom. The Australian attack, led by the talismanic Mitchell Johnson, proved just that during the second leg of the Ashes. So did England during one of their most fruitful summers last year.

On the other hand, India tore through the opponents owing to spinners on turfs that suited their artillery at home. The predicament they face, however, has been the lack of quality seamers who can replicate what Australia, South Africa and England so consistently do in alien conditions.

On a green, or a pacer-friendly, pitch, the Indian fast bowlers did manage to skittle South Africa and New Zealand to scores of 244, 105 and 190, but they also let them gallop to totals of over 450 on numerous counts, twice letting these teams off the hook at crucial moments. Although there were a few positives as takeaways, it was a case of mediocre bowling, compounded by a lack of bite, for most parts. The barrage of short-pitched deliveries bowled at an insipid pace to lower-order batsmen in New Zealand, this when the situation begged for good- and full-length bowling, can be used as an apt example. New Zealand were quite content to nonchalantly hook and pull their way out of trouble.

The reason India needs to mull over this long-existing conundrum is due to the list of upcoming fixtures, one that looks daunting based on the current form, or skill level, of its bowling unit. Although a cliché in cricketing circles these days, a team’s ability to bowl out an opposition twice plays a major factor in its winning percentage. Australia, South Africa, England, and more recently New Zealand, have all validated the theory. Can India manage to unearth one bowler in the next four months who, alongside Mohammed Shami, can bolster the attack? The apparent answer is not in the affirmative, and it’s also highly unlikely that, despite England’s frailties, there is little chance of India usurping them at home with the present bowling line-up.

The Indian selectors will be aware of this crisis. If their moves thus far are taken as references, it’s likely that the current crop of bowlers will be persisted with. They’ve been firm enough to wield the axe over non-performing players, too, but not before presenting a considerable rope. This leads to one question that they will look to answer at the earliest: where does Zaheer Khan fit in the scheme of things? Rahul Dravid, former India captain and one of the sane voices in the sport, doesn’t think he should be a long-term prospect, and it’s hard to counter the points put forth by him. Although the rigorous training under Tim Exeter has helped Zaheer stage a comeback, he’s notably looked flat at times. Dravid couldn’t have been more precise when he said, “I would hate to see Zaheer end his career bowling 120-125 kph and limp away from international cricket. He has done a great job to get himself fit for these two series and to be fair, he has bowled well in patches, and he has bowled consistently.”

Ishant Sharma’s form, which usually oscillates between tepid and cold, would be next on the list of issues to be addressed for the powers that be. Can his performance in the series against New Zealand be a sign of his turning a corner? Will he step up and take responsibility as India’s spearhead finally? Or should he be relegated back to the drawing board? The spotlight must be turned towards the bowling coach, Joe Dawes, too. Sourav Ganguly’s scathing criticism and relentless promotion of his preferred players aside, this one point made by him is noteworthy: “I saw Allan Donald in South Africa, walking around the boundary line, talking to his bowlers. But I don’t see Joe Dawes doing that,” he aptly stated in one of the interviews.

Like most of the other top nations, it’s time India’s bowlers adopted the “wolf pack” mentality. The selectors can help by not shuffling the current bowlers in and out of the side on a frequent basis. Pick one seamer, the alpha male, and let the other two or three seamers — could be Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron and Bhuvaneshwar Kumar — don the roles of the betas and the omegas. Two other fast bowlers can be termed reserves and roped in whenever need be. Not only patience must be shown, but the bowlers need to be given a sense of security for them to flourish. A blueprint to win Tests, regardless of the conditions, has been laid out by other formidable teams out there. It’d augur well if India could build on it.

(Karthik Parimal, a Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of the game. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/karthik_parimal)

South Africa tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Jul 24, 2014 (10:00 IST)   at Colombo

Afghanistan tour of Zimbabwe, 2014

Jul 24, 2014 (12:30 IST)   at Bulawayo

India tour of England 2014

Jul 27, 2014 (15:30 IST)   at Southampton

Pakistan tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Aug 6, 2014 (10:00 IST)   at Galle

India tour of England 2014

Aug 7, 2014 (15:30 IST)   at Manchester

More

Afghanistan tour of Zimbabwe, 2014

Jul 22, 2014  at Bulawayo

Afghanistan won by 2 wkts

Afghanistan tour of Zimbabwe, 2014

Jul 20, 2014  at Bulawayo

Zimbabwe won by 8 wkts

Afghanistan tour of Zimbabwe, 2014

Jul 18, 2014  at Bulawayo

Zimbabwe won by 6 wkts

India tour of England 2014

Jul 17, 2014  at London

India won by 95 runs

South Africa tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Jul 16, 2014  at Galle

South Africa won by 153 runs

Photos

Gallery: India vs England 2nd Test at Lord's

Videos

Alastair Cook jokes about his bowling

India’s wins in England — from 1971 to 2014

Ravindra Jadeja knighted by her majesty Queen Elizabeth II

India’s win over England in 2nd Test at Lord’s: Twitter reactions

Ishant Sharma pummels England into submission as India clinch Lord’s Test by 95 runs

Ishant Sharma registers name at Lord’s honours board, takes 6 wickets in 2nd Test against England

Afghanistan tour of Zimbabwe 2014 Alastair Cook Bhuvneshwar Kumar England England vs India England vs India 2014 India India tour of England 2014 India vs England India vs England 2014 Ishant Sharma MS Dhoni Zimbabwe Zimbabwe vs Afghanistan Zimbabwe vs Afghanistan 2014

tsMS Dhoni takes 5th spot in Forbes Magazine’s valuable sportspersons list

PCB launches revamp of Pakistan’s domestic structure

Sri Lanka to look for new coaching staff

MS Dhoni better wicketkeeeper than what he showed at Lord’s: Farokh Engineer

Sachin Tendulkar: Century at Perth in 1992 against Australia changed my career

India tour of England 2014: Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s feats at Lord’s

Sri Lanka vs South Africa 2014: Dale Steyn’s feats at Galle

India vs England 3rd Test at The Ageas bowl: A sneak peek into England squad

Mohammad Irfan hopes Pakistani players will play in IPL

Stuart Binny and the selection conundrum for India’s third Test against England at Southampton

Fan of the Day

Fan Cricket

Fan Cricket

11 Posts | 2 Fans

Brazil vs Netherlands, 3rd place Fifa World Cup 2014 match Video Highlights

Bang Bang teaser gets over a million views within 13 hours of release!

Leaked: Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone’s romantic video from Corsica!

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here