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By Baiju Joseph
Stuart Broad and James Anderson are to bowling what Mahendra Singh Dhoni is to captaining a team in a world event. They step up, and step up big, especially in English conditions. This has been the pattern of their bowling over the last couple of years. These bowlers are capable of lifting the tempo with brief, destructive spells. The best example of that would be Sri Lanka‘s spectacular collapse during the final session of Day 1 of the Headingley Test, where Broad rampaged with a hat-trick.
When the ball is old, it starts reversing. Anderson is a master exponent of this art and has exploited it to perfection. I recall Matt Prior claiming during their successful Test tour to India in 2012, “if it starts reversing, Jimmy will know what to do!” His skills with the new and the old ball are unparalleled. Only a Zaheer Khan in his prime or a Dale Steyn would the contemporary equivalents. His spells in the second innings of the Lord’s Test against Sri Lanka would serve as an apt example.
Broad, on the other hand, is a ‘hit the deck hard’ bowler. But the moment he pitches it a yard fuller, he becomes unplayable. He is effective with the first new ball and is often lethal with the second new ball. If you survive his first spell, he is sure to get back at you with double the ferocity and vigor in the evening spell. Whenever Alastair Cook is looking for wickets, his first choice is always Broad. And the bowler seldom disappoints. Broad has this supreme ability to sniff the pressure building on the batsmen and dominate the proceedings by bowling intimidating spells to prize out wickets. He may not have the wizardry of Anderson, but he is very effective in his own way.
Dhoni mentioned in the pre-tour conference that the lessons from the last tour were learned and he hoped it to be different this time. He would be wise to have noticed this pattern of English bowlers.
The key for Dhoni and his men would be to thwart the new ball, survive the first session and then capitalise on the second. If they manage to do it, then Broad and Anderson are sure to burst in with lethal spells towards the end of the day. This is where the game turns and India would be wise to be wary of this period. Getting too defensive would only embolden the opposition. It would be wise to be cautious, but it’s important to be positive against this sort of bowling. On the brighter side, if the English do come up with effective plans to counter this aspect, then India can surely dominate the home team bowlers and go on to build effective scores which then their bowlers can defend
In South Africa and New Zealand, the Indian batsmen were able to soak in a lot of pressure and keep up the scoring rate. But England, under the likes of Broad, Anderson, Chris Jordan and Liam Plunkett would be a different story. The likes of Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara did step up against Steyn and Co. But when Steyn did step up in the second Test, they wilted like an autumn leaves under a strong wind. It is this aspect of their game that they need to work on as the next five Tests would present a lot of grueling spells from the English bowlers and Dhoni and company would be wise to plan meticulously for these periods of play.
(Baiju Joseph is a Bangalore-based Junior Scientist at a Bio-Informatics firm who is deeply passionate about cricket and likes to bowl fast whenever he gets an opportunity to ply his cricketing skills)
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