He may be on the wrong side of 30s, but Sachin Tendulkar is still taking all the bowlers to the cleaners like he used to do say 10 to 15 years back. Sanath Jayasuriya was wielding his broad bat till the age of 41, till his recent World Cup axing – it did ruffle quite a few feathers in Sri Lanka – put a halt to his international career.
Javed Miandad holds the record for playing the most number of World Cups – six.
Now you might just feel that age is not a concern for cricketers. Hang on! If your thoughts are veering towards that direction sample this: Makhaya Ntini, an inspiration for Blacks across South Africa, had to retire at a relatively young age of 33 years owing to a slump in form in the Test arena.
Take the case of Australian Brett Lee, who bore the brunt of the heavy workload and called it quits at 33. New Zealand speed merchant Shane Bond bid adieu to his glorious career at the age of 35, largely due to his involvement with the ICL and, of course, his tryst with injuries.
Shaun Tait cited tremendous pressure as reasons for retiring at the young age of 25!
Did you see the common factor in Ntini, Lee, Bond and Tait? All of them are fast bowlers. That makes one to wonder whether a fast bowlers’ career span is shorter than batsmen. A possible answer could lie in the workload they are subjected to.
At any given point of time, fast bowlers are expected to bowl 20 overs a day for around three days during a Test match – no mean task. When you are forced to play on unhelpful tracks it’s easy to get disheartened.
If you are an Indian fast bowler, the situation is much worse Indian cricketers play 19 Tests, 30 ODIs (subject to India’s journey in the World Cup) and 5 international T20 matches over the next one year, in addition to the IPL! So you can well imagine the strenuous amount of exercise the bowlers have to undergo this year. It doesn’t help matters that India does not have a rotation policy.
The No.1 Test tag may not entirely sit comfortably on the Team India. Let’s face it: we still do not have bowlers who can make batsmen dance to their tunes, no matter what the pitch condition is like. India needs someone in the mould of Brett Lee, Shane Bond or Lasit Malinga. So far, we have only seen only promises that have not exactly be translated into performances.
The need of the hour is to build up a battery of seamers who not only play second fiddle to Zaheer Khan but also take over the mantle once he retires. Kapil Dev once put it brilliantly: “Fast bowlers are not made in gyms.”
Indian fast bowlers have no other option except slog it out in unhelpful conditions. If they are not ready to do that, India will always struggle to get the 20 wickets required to win a Test match.
(Uday Koduru is an avid cricket fan and writer is a big follower of Harsha Bhogle. He is currently pursuing Chartered Accountancy)
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