Ishant Sharma picked up two wickets for India against New Zealand at Auckland © Getty Images
By Gaurav Joshi
Indian captain, MS Dhoni stated at the toss that tracks with a nice covering of grass is a good recipe for success for his three medium-fast bowlers, and he expected Indian bowlers to prosper in such conditions. He was spot on about his assumption. Indian bowlers thrived under the gloomy skies striking three times in the first session to leave New Zealand in a spot of bother at three for 54.
Dhoni also said the Indian bowlers tend to struggle when there is no lateral movement and the bowlers have to rely on extracting bounce to trouble the batsmen. Once again the Indian captain was right. During the post lunch session, the seam movement wasn’t there and the Indian bowlers were put to the sword by Brendon McCullum and Kane Williamson. The pair added 125 runs in 27 overs at a scintillating run-rate of 4.63 runs an over.
Indian pace bowlers either need seaming conditions for the duration of the match or an abrasive pitch to ensure the ball reverse swings. If either of these components are missing, the Indian attack looks pedestrian and clueless. Dhoni is aware of the weakness and the strengths in the Indian bowling, but the frightening aspect is India’s inability to do well when there is no movement.
In the recent Test series against South Africa, the Indian bowling looked threatening in the first innings at Wanderers because the pitch still had a bit of juice in it, but once that receded, the bowlers were tame as South Africa nearly chased 450 runs. In the Durban Test, the reverse swing was an option, but only Mohammad Shami looked dangerous because of his pace and accuracy. Zaheer Khan is in his twilight of his career and despite being a master of the reverse swing, he simply doesn’t have that extra yard of pace through the air to trouble the batsmen. While Ishant is still learning the tricks of the trade, despite playing internationals for over six years now.
These same glaring issues haunted Indian line-up during the lunch interval on the first day of the first Test.
Moreover, to be successful with the old Kookaburra ball, you need to bowl at decent clicks and need to bowl relentless line and length. Ishant struggled to generate decent amount of pace, and so did Zaheer. Ishant’s figures after lunch and up until the new ball read as 12 – 0 – 54 – 0. In those 12 overs he was hit for eight fours. Zaheer plans to bounce the batsmen went astray he was pulled for six fours. The pair simply could not sustain the pressure. Precision is one of the virtues of succeeding with the old Kookaburra ball. A skill that Indian bowlers have failed at miserably.
Bowling probing line and length with the old ball requires as much skill as learning to swing or seam the ball. After all in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, bowlers need to take wickets between the 25th and 80th overs. Over the past few years, the Indian pacers have always lacked this skill of bowling with the old Kookaburra ball and until a solution is accomplished, opposition teams will continue to make a fine recovery after finding themselves in trouble against India.
(Gaurav Joshi is an Indian-born Australian who played with Michael Clarke in his junior days. He coaches and reports for a Sydney radio station. Over the years he has freelanced for Australia Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and is a regular on ABC cricket show Cow Corner. He is the author of the book “Teen Thunder Down Under” – The inside story of India’s 2012 U19 World Cup Triumph)