June 15, 2010

Indian cricket

Where are the Indian fast bowlers?

Aakash Chopra
Karnataka's fast bowling trio of S Aravind, R Vinay Kumar and Abhimanyu Mithun pose for the cameras, Karnataka v Uttar Pradesh, Ranji Trophy 2009-10 2nd semi-final, Bangalore, 3rd day, January 5, 2010
The narrow gap between two first-class games can make fast bowlers less effective  © ESPNcricinfo Ltd
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The strength of our fast bowling department or the lack of it is a serious concern and must be, in my view, addressed at once. The writing has been on the wall for quite some time and two consecutive failures, first in the World T20 and recently in Zimbabwe, just reinforced the gravity of the situation.

A lot of critics felt that one of the major reasons behind not winning a single match in the Super Eights of the World T20 was the absence of an extra quick bowler on seamer-friendly conditions in Barbados. And perhaps, it was an apt assessment. Understandably, not many could either understand or approve this rather baffling decision made by the captain. His lack of faith in a rookie could perhaps be the only reason that somewhat explains the move of not playing a fast bowler. I refuse to believe that he couldn't assess the pitch conditions accurately.

But why was a rookie picked to play in the World T20 anyway? What happened to the players in whom the selectors had invested their trust in the lead up to the world event? Well, obviously, selectors have lost faith in the Ishants and Munafs of Indian cricket. Point taken! But do we have their replacements ready? If the recently concluded tri-series is anything to go by, we are far from it. The second string of fast bowlers looked far from impressive.

That brings me to the million-dollar question: where are the fast bowlers? One look at the domestic season's statistics would tell you a completely different story. Eight out of the top ten wicket-takers in the country are fast bowlers. And it has been the case for the last few seasons. So, either the standard of batting is extremely poor in the country or the conditions are helping the quicks. In this case, it is the latter, for the domestic circuit is still producing enough quality batsmen who aren't found wanting even at the highest level. That leaves us with a simple conclusion - the conditions in India favour the quick bowlers! Yes, that's what is happening in first-class circuit in India.

There's a genuine attempt to make sporting tracks by the state associations but unfortunately, leaving grass and making it seamer-friendly is their idea of a sporting track. Since the quality of spin has gone down at domestic level and Indian batsmen are at ease against spin, most teams prefer a seamer-friendly track than a turning pitch.

An ordinary spinner may not survive but an average quick bowler can definitely thrive in India at the domestic level. The SG ball used in first-class cricket, if maintained properly, swings the entire day, which means fast bowlers are never out of action. Bowling longer spells is a good thing but this SG ball adds another dimension to it i.e. bowlers who release the ball are more effective than the ones who hit the deck hard. It's an open secret that you need to hit the pitch hard to be successful in international cricket unless you swing the ball, like Irfan used to initially. Also, the gap between two first-class games is only three days which leads to two things. One, the bowlers tend to preserve themselves and learn to bowl at a lesser optimum level, say 70% of their total capacity which explains relatively quick bowlers becoming medium pacers in a season. Secondly - the tracks need to be doctored a lot to give them assistance which leads to inflated figures.

Hence domestic tournaments may well be presenting a warped picture of a fast bowler's performance and hence cannot suffice for an appropriate yardstick to go by while picking one. Then there's the IPL in which a bowler is tested properly, or so they believe. After all, the pressure of the format and bowling to quality players would separate chalk from cheese. But sadly, that's not the case. You need to bowl only four overs in two or three spells in a T20 game which is too small a canvas to project the true colors of a player's temperament and talent. In any case, going for eight an over is par for the course which is almost blasphemous in fifty-over format.

Fast bowling is a physically gruelling job and demands high level of fitness. This is a rare breed which must be protected and nurtured. Identifying your best bowlers from the available options is the first step and then constant mentoring and monitoring is the need of the hour to have a big enough pool to sustain the hectic international calendar.

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here

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Posted by Kamal. Z.Ali on (June 29, 2010, 10:20 GMT)

I do not agree with Akash on the dearth of quality fast bowlers. definitely there are many budding talents but wasted or gone haywhere when they grow up because they are not nurtured properly. We have the best facility in MRF Pace foundation to train the fast bowlers under the legend Dennis Lillee. but still we could not get quality fast bowlers. the BCCI authorities should stop their infights and should act on development of cricket.

Posted by Tharan on (June 26, 2010, 6:07 GMT)

I think india has pace bowler but nt wicket first we need good seamer friendly track then u see pace bowler like shoiab or lee

Posted by sukdeo on (June 24, 2010, 7:43 GMT)

Indians are predominantly vegetarians - keeps u healthy, but doenst give u strenght and stamina for quick bowling. Also, sports management is not one the strenghts of the Indian sport faculties. This needs to be addressed first before even contemplating the qualities required of a sportsman.

Posted by Manish on (June 20, 2010, 18:18 GMT)

I can't believe that our country cannot produce a fast bowler!!! India makes a ordinary man from the streets a cricketer and makes him millionaire overnight...This guy over a period of time forgets that he plays for the nation and starts enjoying life...

Look how fit out cricketers are......They fit in all the ads and add to the glamour of IPL parties!!!

We need complete overhaul of the system and replace BCCI with a management body that will manage cricket as a sport!

Posted by praveen phadke on (June 20, 2010, 12:08 GMT)

surely agree with bhanu rasala on his views.god knows what happens to indian rookie bowlers once they make a entry into the international foray. they just fade out after couple of series. its just that they get thrashed around the park in indian pitches and lose confidence. they stop bowling at raw pace and they stick on to line and length with not much of a result. we have seen this happen over the years with munaf,david johnson,dodda ganesh,gony, vrv singh and the list just goes on. dont know how does the mrf pace foundation help our youngsters? bcause we havent seen much of successful indian bowlers graduating from there. rp singh, sreesanth and ishant do possess the talent, its just that the selectors have to put faith in them and allow them to play for 2-3 series on the trot.

Posted by Venky on (June 20, 2010, 9:49 GMT)

Unsure if I agree - a surfeit of T20s and one-dayers has reduced the need and in fact killed all prospects for aspiring spinners. Further, I am unsure if our batsmen have been stress-tested at International levels - let an India A team visit SA or Australia and the results will be obvious - these batsmen easily average 50+ in domestic circuits but will plod on in higher versions of the game. Selection follies have much to do with the overall results - Srikkanth swings between Southern overdose to complete lack of representation, the latter perhaps to balance criticism than talent. Balaji was and still is one of India's best pace bowlers but is in the wilderness. A surfeit of cricket in India overall is what will kill Indian cricket eventually and, yes, the Indian physique is a large contributor as well. Even when very well rested, an Indian bowler cannot match the pace and stamina of their Pakistani counterparts and this goes back to the days of Nissar and co.

Posted by Snowsnake on (June 19, 2010, 22:36 GMT)

The problem with Indian bowlers is not that they can't ball over 140 KMPH, but that they don't want to so that they can avoid injuries. I don't blame them. Given that Indian players play the most cricket (including IPL), it only makes to conserve energy and minimize injuries. This is one of the side effects of IPL.

Posted by niles on (June 19, 2010, 13:17 GMT)

and also i want to add the problem is that every kid in indai wants to be a batsman.no1 wants to be a bowler.but as soon as you offer money you wil see the guys turning to fast bowlin.and when i say i mean 150km/h plus.

Posted by niles on (June 19, 2010, 13:16 GMT)

i have said this before.bcci please listen to my request.you have millions of dollars.we have the exact same wickets as pakisatn.why do they produce the fastest bowlers of all time?bbc use your money to do good.offer example 100 thousand u.s dollars to all new up and comin bowlers who can bowl consistenly at 150km/h

Posted by Rana on (June 19, 2010, 13:14 GMT)

Taking point from your article, I can tell you why Indians fast bowlers cant bowl fast for longer duration in their careers. The reason is there is no competition among Fast bowlers. India has to take what is available. Then these fast bowlers relax after playing few matches and they know it as well that India does not have any other way to go but to just pick them. The second problem is diet of India fast bowlers. Since majority of Indian population is vegetarian so sports men from India does not get enough strength in their muscles to bowl fast or bowl fast for longer duration of times in their careers.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for India in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He currently plays for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy; his book Beyond the Blues was an account of the 2007-08 season. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after Eknath Solkar.

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