Ishant Sharma

Ishant Sharma (right) was a forlorn figure as he was carted for 30 runs in the 48th over of the Australian innings by James Faulkner that set up a win for the visitors © PTI

Ishant Sharma, the senior-most bowler in the Indian team, was carted for 30 runs in the 48th over of the Australian innings. His bowling at the death against Australia at Mohali in the third One-Day International (ODI) was not only appalling, but way too ordinary for international level. Ishant looked clueless. However, it brought to light India’s perennial problem of bowling at the death. Aayush Puthran examines the situation and elucidates why India should make room for a bowler purely for his ability to bowl well in the latter part of the innings in their bid to defend the world title in 2015. 

Over the last decade, India have had phases where there has been a rush of fast bowlers emerging into the international scene with promise, causing problem of plenty for the selectors. At other times, there is just a desperate search to find four good ones to make the squad. These phases have been running in a cycle, with the latter being the current scene in Indian cricket.

Ishant Sharma’s horrendous performance in the third One-Day International (ODI) brings to light a grave reality which anyway had to be addressed — a need for death bowler in limited overs cricket.
The problem that India is facing is a perennial one ever since Ajit Agarkar went out of favour. Ashish Nehra and RP Singh did well in patches, but they failed more often than they succeeded. However, today, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and the Indian selectors would realise that there is room to fit in a bowler in the side purely for his ability to bowl well in the death.

With five frontline bowlers and the part-time services of Yuvraj Singh, there is no fear if one of them has an off-day. There is enough option to fill in. Additionally, with Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s overs majorly being used up early on in the innings, the need for a death specialist becomes especially important. It won’t be about selecting the best XI, but about having the best balanced XI.
While England have used Jade Dernbach in the role, Pakistan till recently had the services of Umar Gul. South Africa and West Indies use Dale Steyn and Sunil Narine respectively to do the job; but they are destructive enough at all times. For India, maybe a fit-again Zaheer Khan could suit that role.
With the new two-ball rule negating hardness and reverse swing from the ball, bowlers will have to be cleverer. Their artistry would be challenged, especially given the fact that only four fielders are allowed outside the 30-yard circle.

With the bigger picture in mind, one would wonder if Ishant’s awful bowling has actually done India more good than bad keeping in mind the 2015 World Cup. However, if they fail to find a good death bowler, not only would the efforts of the batsmen be redundant, but also there will be room to allow more ordinary stuff like what Ishant produced against Australia at Mohali to seep in and repeat.
(Aayush Puthran is a reporter with CricketCountry. Mercurially jovial, pseudo pompous, perpetually curious and occasionally confused, he is always up for a light-hearted chat over a few cups of filter kaapi!)