Jonathan Trott of England is bowled by Shoaib Akhtar of Pakistan during the 3rd NatWest One Day International between England and Pakistan at The Brit Insurance Oval on September 17, 2010 © Getty Images
Jonathan Trott of England is bowled by Shoaib Akhtar of Pakistan during the 3rd NatWest One Day International between England and Pakistan at The Brit Insurance Oval on September 17, 2010 © Getty Images

 

By Akash Kaware

 

Bangalore produced two heart-stopping contests in a week: a tie that would have made neither side happy and an unbelievable win for one of the ‘minnows’. I would really be surprised if the latter result, and the manner in which it was achieved, is surpassed in this edition for its shock value.

 

The batsmen from all three sides – England being the common factor in both matches – benefitted from a pitch that was flatter than even the usual subcontinental shirtfronts, some generous fielding, strangely defensive captaincy from their opponents, but most importantly, some seriously inept bowling from all bowling sides. Scores of 320-plus being chased down successfully is not surprising any longer in one-dayers. To say that cricket, especially in the subcontinent, is a batsman’s game is now an understatement. Saying that it is a bowlers’ massacre would be more to the point.

 

The lopsided pitches apart, the bats keep getting better, the boundaries shorter, bouncers rationed, batsmen looking like soldiers – minus the guns. And the ball change after 34 overs has taken reverse swing out of the equation. Bowlers are therefore, forced to find new methods of survival, and thus we have seen innovations like the Doosra, the Carrom ball, slower balls of varying lengths, ranging from bouncers to fuller ones. But the bowlers are not helping their cause by neglecting the delivery that used to be their best bet in the slog overs not so long ago – the yorker.

 

Dale Steyn once famously said, “A good yorker bowled at 140-kmph is a good delivery, doesn’t matter whether you bowl it in Perth or Johannesburg or Nagpur.” With the pitches favouring batsmen more and more, the yorker is a delivery that takes the playing surface out of the equation, something demonstrated so regularly by the likes of Lasith Malinga. But there seems to be a strange reluctance among bowlers the world over to even contemplate the thought of bowling six deliveries in a row aimed at the blockhole! It is one thing to attempt to bowl a yorker and fail, quite another not to attempt it at all, as was the case with most bowlers on those two eventful nights in Bangalore.

 

Variety seems to be the buzzword, and slower balls seem to have become the weapon of choice. A slower ball, however, is supposed to be a ‘surprise’ change of pace, but the regularity with which it is used these days, it is anything but that! Most batsmen expect them in the end overs, and when the surprise element disappears, usually the ball disappears along with it too. The beauty of the yorker is that if the bowler gets it right, then even if the batsman is expecting it, there’s little he can do about it other than digging it out – and, at best, hope for a single.

 

Of course, one has to admit that bowling a toe-crusher is by no means an easy task. It takes years of practice to perfect it. Getting it right in the nets is hardly the same as getting it right out in the middle. And getting it wrong can be disastrous. Overpitch it a little, and it becomes a full-toss, easy to hit out of the park. Get it a fraction shorter and it becomes a half-volley, even easier to cream it out of the park. But as a delivery which is possibly the best combination of attack and defense at a bowler’s disposal, it is probably worth putting in the effort perfecting it. After all, a slower ball is not easy to master either, and even when executed well, has more chance of being dispatched into the stands in an era when even miss-hits clear the boundary!

 

Even in this World Cup, a couple of bowlers who have bowled full and straight in the final overs, have managed to cause the most problems. Tim Bresnan rattled the stumps a couple of times against India with ‘You miss, I hit’ kind of deliveries, Malinga virtually won the match against Kenya with yorkers (though it must be said, they were probably wasted on Kenya), and Zaheer Khan nailed a settled Andrew Strauss with a beauty that was homing in on the base of middle stump. Yet very few bowlers seem to be learning from them. With the game’s administrators trying their very best to force bowlers into looking for alternative careers, the bowlers would do well not to forget the one delivery that still hasn’t been banned by the authorities – the yorker!

 

(Akash Kaware is an Indian IT professional, who would’ve been a successful  international cricketer if it hadn’t been for an annoying tendency to run towards square-leg while facing tennis, rubber or leather cricket balls hurled at anything at little more than genuine medium-pace! Watching Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid convinced him that breaking into the Indian team was not going to happen anytime soon and hence he settled to become an engineer and MBA, who occasionally wrote about cricket. A few months ago, sensing his uselessness and constant use of cricket websites at work, his company banished him to Canada. His hopes of playing international cricket have, thus, been renewed!)