India's bowling is losing sting
"The Asia Cup is vital for the reputation of the country," said Kris Srikkanth, chairman of India's selection committee, to the media when he announced the team the for four-nation tournament earlier this month. It was also the day he lost his cool in front of the media.
India's captain MS Dhoni had this to say after the thrilling win over Pakistan recently: "We've got the talent in the bowling department also. It's about how you handle pressure, they will learn from games like these."
Twice in a space of one month the World Cup winners were thrown out of an ODI tri-series, first in Australia and second in homegrown conditions in Bangladesh. Twice, even after some frenetic batting heroics from Virat Kohli, India were left looking for favours from another team in order to qualify for a tournament final. Twice, they failed to receive any favours.
That India did not even qualify for the finals in successive tournament should worry the selectors. If this doesn't, I wouldn't know what would. In both tournaments our bowling was well below par.
India's batting - the team's fire power, as Dhoni calls it - is firing. By any stretch of imagination, both Pakistan and Bangladesh are not batting powerhouses like India. But Pakistan hammered 329 and Bangladesh chased down 290 against an Indian bowling which was meek, ragged and inconsistent. India's bowling during the Powerplay and in the last 10 overs has become meat and drinks for any batting team. Opponents regularly take anywhere from 70 to 100 run in the last ten overs. This should be a matter of concern for the World Cup winners, whose captain is already talking of preparing for the next World Cup by preparing his younger players to play in Australian conditions.
This team now has a look of lopsided growth - phenomenal batting on one side, woefully inadequate bowling on the other. How long will we depend on our batting strength without a modicum of decent bowling attack and hope to retain the tag of world champions? Particularly in recent ODI matches the bowling has been quite pedestrian which is why the team has been unable to defend any target. This may also be the reason why Dhoni opts to chase.
Very accurate, incessant good-length bowling in the uncertain corridor of off stump was the undoing of the Indian batsmen in Australia during the Tests. Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus were only replacements for injured faster bowlers like James Pattinson and Ryan Harris yet ran through India except for a lone century from Kohli in eight innings.
In contrast, our bowlers failed to attack one side of the wicket. Instead, they sprayed the ball all over to make it difficult for the captain to set a field. In some matches, having started well, our bowling loosened the stranglehold on the Aussies who made merry by putting on double and triple-century partnerships. Be it the Test or ODI format, our bowling standards appear to be definitely on the decline if present results are any indicators.
India has relied on truly one bowler of class, Zaheer Khan. While the sheer number of matches in all formats has taken a heavy toll on the aging star, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh seem to have a surfeit of talent in this area with a new crop of pace bowlers appearing in their teams regularly. It is a mystery why our new talents seem to burn out either through overwork or get into attitude problems with the result showing how weak the bench strength is.
The bowling coach needs to address these weaknesses, particularly in the ODI format which will have a direct bearing in the ICC rankings and will no doubt affect the team's buildup for the 2015 World Cup.
It is also amusing to see the Indian captain repeatedly penalised for slow over rate. He even had to sit out a crucial match, twice. Though such incidents have become commonplace, nobody is losing sleep over this - not the coach, manager or the selectors.
Instead, the BCCI officials seem to be busy in getting masala organized for IPL matches, whereas important aspects like this alarming dip in bowling standards, poor bench strength in bowling departments and poorer over-rate resulting in penalties are totally given a quiet burial after a disastrous tour.
I hope this bunch of selectors, no matter which adjective suits them best, will not bury the critical lacunae in India's bowling department under a carpet. They must act in the best interest of the team instead of losing their tempers at the media whose business is to bring such issues to the open.
More about E R RamachandranE.R. Ramachandran, a corporate manager-turned-columnist has contributed to Hindustan times and Deccan Herald. He is a regular contributor to the Churumuri blog and writes a weekly column for Mysore Mail, a local Newspaper. Satire being his forte, he combines cricket and other sports with politics, in 'tongue in cheek' articles. He firmly believes that another 22-ball century can never happen again in any format of cricket like the one Don Bradman did in November 1931. And feels it is time for BCCI to do something to improve India's fielding and running between the wickets.
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