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After Ishant Sharma’s cracking spell of seven for 74 at Lord’s, the Indian pacers looked completely deflated at Southampton in his absence. In the fourth Test at Old Trafford, however, the inclusion of Varun Aaron has lent teeth to the Indian attack. Shiamak Unwalla looks at the spell that has impressed all and sundry.
When news broke of a young tearaway who could clock some serious speeds a few years ago, it understandably excited a number of Indian supporters. Varun Aaron had established a reputation very early on in his career of being someone who could bowl dangerously swiftly; he was touted to be rapid even by international standards.
Aaron was fast-tracked into the Indian side after India’s disastrous tour of England in 2011. He was picked for the One-Day side against the same team in their return series. He impressed immediately with a three-wicket haul on debut. A decent performance on Test debut on a flat surface was enough that the selectors’ faith in him was vindicated.
However, Aaron was clearly not physically fit enough to deal with the rigours of bowling outright fast. Already an injury-prone bowler, he was out of the squad for lengthy periods due to injury until the selectors looked past him to other young pacers like Mohammed Shami and Mohit Sharma (nowhere near as fast by any stretch of the imagination, but consistent nonetheless).
Aaron was picked again for the Asia Cup in 2014, where he sprayed the ball all over the place in the few opportunities that he got. It seemed unlikely that he would get back into the squad any time soon, but an impressive showing in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 7 might have prompted the selectors to give him one more chance.
He was selected for the England tour ahead of the likes of Umesh Yadav, a move that was criticised by Wasim Akram. He went wicket-less in the two practice matches, and was overlooked for the first three Tests. However, with Ishant’s injury and Shami’s lacklustre form, he was selected at Old Trafford, Manchester, on arguably the greenest track India had been faced with all series.
India were mauled for 152 on Day One. It seemed England would run away with the game, but Bhuvneshwar Kumar struck early. Till this point in the match, Aaron had been a mere spectator — he scored a solitary run and faced just eight balls — but he was introduced into the attack with Alastair Cook and Gary Ballance looking solid in the middle.
And then he showed why he was picked. First there was the sharp lifter that fooled Cook into thinking he could pull. It was high enough for the shot; it was just a bit too quick. Cook’s resultant top-edge found Pankaj Singh at square leg. One down. Then it was Ballance: full, quick, and swinging in. LBW. The best though, was his third victim.
It has been established in this series that Moeen Ali does not like to play the short ball. So the Indians bowled short. Bhuvneshwar bowled two in a row, and both were pulled for boundaries. But then Aaron bowled short; and he was quicker. Moeen fended. Aaron ran in again. Moeen tried to duck. He was hit on the helmet. And then, with Moeen firmly on the back foot, Aaron let loose one that the speed guns claim was only 137 kph. It seemed more like 147. Full, swinging in, and above all, fast. Moeen never had a chance.
Joe Root and Jos Buttler saw him off without any further incident, and rain robbed us all of what promised to be an engaging day’s cricket. But what Aaron’s spell showed was that this Indian attack is not the same toothless, deflated one that conceded over 750 runs at Southampton. This is an attack that should not be taken for granted, and that is possibly the best news India has had since Lord’s.
(Shiamak Unwalla is a reporter with Cricket Country. He is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek and Cricket fanatic who likes to pass his free time by reading books, watching TV shows, and eating food. Sometimes all at the same time. You can follow him on twitter at @ShiamakUnwalla)
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