August 28, 2007

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan on India in England, 2007

The reverse speed barrier

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan
Ramesh Powar bowled accurately and finished with figures of 1 for 39, India v South Africa, Civil Service Cricket Ground, Stormont, Belfast, Ireland, June 26, 2007
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It's an age where speed-guns are creaking, clocking bowling speeds at 80 and 90 mph with bowlers constantly trying to break the 100-mph barrier. What we need now, especially with Ramesh Powar involved, is a bowler who cracks the 30 mph mark. Powar delights with his ability to constantly slow the pace. At Edgbaston he began in the 50s before gradually, clinically settling in the mid 40s. Suddenly he lobbed in one at 42 mph and Ian Bell, mouth wide open, ran the risk of yawning before the ball arrived.

Batsmen talk about playing fast bowlers on instinct, not having the time to make up their minds in a split second. Here they're faced with the reverse dilemma: having too much time to decide which shot to pull out. The best part is Powar occasionally slips in the under-cutter, the straight one bowled at 55mph. You know it's slow but how slow makes the biggest difference. Batsmen talk of having trouble with increments. The difference between 75 and 80mph is supposed to be less than between 85 and 86. As you go higher the minimal increase matters. Surely one can use the reverse logic and apply it to Powar: the difference between 43 and 42, that one extra moment could ruin all well-thought out plans.

Now we know a bowler can get as fast as 100 mph but how slow can he go? What is the limiting point in international cricket? How high and long can the ball hang in the air before reaching the batsmen? Watch the speed gun closely. We could be entering uncharted territory.

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is a former assistant editor at Cricinfo

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