Bangladesh v India, Asia Cup, Fatullah February 26, 2014

Varun Aaron: fast, but not fearsome

Karthik Krishnaswamy in Fatullah
Varun Aaron ticks all the boxes when it comes to sheer pace but has been lacking control and bowling nous, and that is compounding India's bowling woes

Varun Aaron is quick. On Wednesday at the Khan Shaheb Osman Ali Stadium, he maintained an average speed of 88.2mph, and his fastest delivery clocked 93.2mph on the speedgun. That's 149.99kph. India have a fast bowler. A genuinely fast bowler.

It wouldn't be inaccurate to say that the selectors gave Aaron a chance to play for India solely because he was quick. He made his ODI debut in October 2011 and his Test debut a month later. At that point, he had taken 26 first-class wickets in 12 matches at an average of 41.50. His last first-class match before his international debut was for Rest of India against Rajasthan. In that match, he took one wicket for 117 runs in 42 overs.

He didn't have the numbers in first-class cricket to suggest he could take wickets at the international level. He had, however, sent the speedgun needle into previously largely uncharted territory for Indian fast bowlers. You could legitimately label him "right arm fast".

On Wednesday, Aaron came on with Bangladesh 40 for 1 in 11 overs. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami had bowled tight first spells, and each of them had produced edges that flew through gaps in the slip cordon. There was little in the pitch to enthuse the seamers, but they had kept the batsmen under pressure.

Aaron immediately released it with his first two balls, wide half-volleys that left-hand batsman Mominul Haque drove handsomely for fours. This was a portent of what was to come, although it wasn't immediately apparent, after R Ashwin dismissed Mominul at the other end and Aaron bowled a quiet second over.

You could tell even then, though, that he wasn't really worrying Anamul Haque and Mushfiqur Rahim. His length wasn't asking them any difficult questions, and both batsmen came forward and drove him confidently. For now, they were hitting to the fielders.

What came next was unexpected. Out of nowhere, in Aaron's third over, Anamul jumped down the track and clattered him over long-on for six. In his fifth over, Anamul charged him again. Aaron banged the ball in short. Anamul swatted it for six. Later in the over Aaron served up another half-volley. Anamul clumped it back past him for four.

Aaron was bowling fast, but there was no extra ingredient - no cunning and no intimidation either. Even that can work sometimes, if you bowl fast and attack the stumps, but Aaron's default line was fifth or even sixth stump.

When he came back on later in the innings, in the 37th over, Aaron dismissed Anamul, bowled off his inside edge, but only after he had struck two more fours, the second a slash past point off a high full-toss that was called no-ball. In his next over, the high full-toss made another appearance, seemingly slipping out of his fingers and striking Mushfiqur Rahim a painful blow on the chest. The second offence meant he had to go out of the attack.

It was unlikely he would have done any more bowling after that over anyway. Before being struck by that beamer, Mushfiqur had spanked Aaron for two more fours and a six. All of that had left him with figures of 1 for 74 in 7.5 overs. This was the second time that Aaron had gone for more than eight runs an over in an ODI, and this was just his eighth match. His career economy rate had now spiked to 6.64.

India's excitement with Aaron's pace is understandable. It's a precious resource. And he has improved his bowling to the extent that he has enjoyed his best ever first-class season after recovering from recurring back injuries. But he still seems unsure of what exactly he's trying to do when he bowls at the international level. It has been the same case with Umesh Yadav, and it's hard to tell if either of them is getting the guidance they need to make the most of their talent.

It's hard to tell if any of India's young fast bowlers are getting this. Aaron's spell in Fatullah was the 12th instance of an Indian fast bowler conceding eight or more runs per over in an ODI spell of six or more overs since the start of 2013. Umesh Yadav and Mohit Sharma appear once each on that list. Vinay Kumar and Mohammed Shami, like Aaron, have two entries each, while Ishant Sharma features a staggering four times. All of this, remember, has happened in the last 14 months.

In that period, India's batsmen have been made to chase 300-plus targets eight times. They've been made to do it not just in Jaipur, Nagpur and Rajkot but also in Johannesburg, Kingston and Wellington.

Despite Aaron's waywardness, their target in Fatullah was "only" 280 and they got home without too much fuss. It's what Virat Kohli does. But he must wish sometimes that he didn't have to do it so often. He will wish he won't have to keep doing it in this tournament. MS Dhoni isn't around to help him.

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on March 2, 2014, 5:56 GMT

    I don't really think that beamer was intentional at all,seriously guys ,when someone doing that much serious pace it can happen especially when 150 kph yorker,the error chance is high!!! of course it is too dangerous and it should be avoided anyway (thats's why umpair banned him)....personally i am not a fan of gavasker's commentary.hey might be a good cricket player,but not in front of a mike..someone should have said him there wasn't a war going on...............................Anyway coming back to aaron,...yes his economy and average is too high but also consider mitchel johnson and dale steyn are working most in bowling favored condition,i am not comparing aaron to great mitchel and steyn...but aaron is a rare one we got,can't estimate his talent only in puny indian and bangla dead flat pitches,let him bowl in bowling condition.....really he deserves another shot.......let him bowl fast please..

  • Dummy4 on March 1, 2014, 12:00 GMT

    It's funny that Aaron is the fastest bowler in the tournament, yet IND has problem in the bowling department. IND should pick him against PAK n Kohli must use him wisely.

    If he n Yadav are nurtured well by a good bowling coach like Donald, Mcdermott, IND can hope for a good bowling department along with Shami. This trio is a long-term prospect.........Must handle WISELY!!!!!

  • Shabbir on February 28, 2014, 7:44 GMT

    This is what Gavaskar said of the Aaron bowling incident against Mushifiqur while commenting on TV;

    "That one seemed intentional. This should not have been the way to stop the batsman and the bowler should be dealt a stricter punishment,"

    It is also a credit to Gavaskars integrity and sportsmanship that he was so candid about the incident. The context is a afollows:

    It happened after Aaron had conceded 56 runs in his previous 7 overs. In his 8th over, he conceded 17 runs in the first 5 balls and then in his last ball, after a long discussion with Kholi, the ball hit Mushi way above his waist. It was the second time he had done this and the umpire banned him from bowling any more in the inning.

    Of course the bottom line is, it's all about winning ... right???

  • Dummy4 on February 28, 2014, 2:01 GMT

    It is very clear that India lacks a good pace bowling coach. Players like Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav are rare breed in India. They should be handled with care. They can be productive only if they are given a long run. Make one of the former West Indian pace bowlers like Michel Holding / Andy Roberts to coach them. Remember how Imran Khan handled Wasim Akram in the 92' World Cup in Australia-New Zealand. Imran wanted Akram ( who was temporarily out of form ) to regain form by bowling fast and not by reducing pace for line and length. Fast bowling is all about fearsome approach in game and in mind which Indian cricket administrators and players should understand.

  • ram on February 28, 2014, 1:35 GMT

    Unlike Steyn and MJ,Varon is someone pace with grace, i have no doubt that he will end up all time great. Lillee should coach him, by coaaching him lille will be doing a favour to himself.

  • Naz on February 27, 2014, 19:50 GMT

    What Varun did that day was a clear display of extreme unprofessionalism..and what I didn't like about it was Kohli having a chat with Varun prior to delivering that can say sorry 1000 times but he definitely got away with a penalty which is not equal to the unsportsmanlike attitude he showed. Even Sunny Gavaskar sensed an intent behind that delivery to Mushfiq and suggested harsher punishment.

  • Muthuvel on February 27, 2014, 19:10 GMT

    Very basic and typical knee jerk article. The chance that varun and umesh might get better is too great a potential to be wasted. They will be and should be persisted

  • Nischal on February 27, 2014, 17:37 GMT

    Fast bowlers are very precious and need to be handled very carefully. They should not be played matches over matches continuously. Why do bowlers like dale steyn, morkel, mitchell johnson consistently manage their pace, because they don't have crazy schedule like Indian cricketers. Such bowlers need to get rest to recuperate from that wear tear of shoulders and arms. This is where selectors and BCCI is doing a big mistake. All these bowlers zaheer khan, ishant sharma, munaf patel make their debut bowling over 145 kmph and after a year of continous cricket they have problems even reach 130.

  • Shiv on February 27, 2014, 17:32 GMT

    Bowling coaches around the world would love to see a guy like Aaron. Pace is something that comes naturally, if one has that all the other aspects like control, line and length, variations can be taught. Pace is the only thing that cannot be taught.

    So its entirely the failure of the coach and the BCCI to not able to guide him properly. They cannot expect a kid who has hardly played any first class cricket to come and perform in intl matches. Its solely upto them to make sure he is guided at every step possible.

    I would say Aaron needs to be given some more time before we pass any judgements.

  • Dummy4 on February 27, 2014, 17:20 GMT

    rare find for India...i say..persist with him for another 10-15 matches...after all...rohit sharma played for an eternity before he finally made runs...this rare find should be given maximum number of chances..its better than seeing 120-125 kmph bowlers trundling on with "variations"...

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