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Sanjay Manjrekar: Seam bowling is a weakness in ODIs

Sanjay Manjrekar analyses India's unimpressive performance in the Champions Trophy (10:16)

September 30, 2009

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India v WI, Champions Trophy, Group A, Jo'burg

Sanjay Manjrekar: Seam bowling is a weakness in ODIs

September 30, 2009

Ishant Sharma wasn't at his best, and was benched for the final game © Getty Images

Dileep Premachandran: India's campaign has just come to an end against the West Indies, they don't make the semi-finals; Pakistan and Australia qualify from Group A. Sanjay, Pakistan nearly did India a big favour today at Centurion, but not quite. How do you assess India's campaign in the Champions Trophy, did they deserve to go through?

Sanjay Manjrekar: If you want to be a little considerate and little understanding of India's performance here - you can see that one bad game against Pakistan has hurt them very badly, the second one [against Australia] was a washout. So they will go back not having qualified for the semis with one bad game. Though Australia, from the position that they were in that game, looked they would win. But who knows, it was a game that wasn't completed.

From that standpoint, yes. But, if you have to be harsh, I think the selectors, the captain and the coach of the team always have to be very hard on themselves. They have to ask themselves - why did they lose to Pakistan that wasn't really such a good team at the start of the competition, why did we bowl so badly, was our bowling attack good enough to win the Champions Trophy, with the kind of form we saw from RP Singh, Ishant Sharma and Harbhajan Singh in that vital game. Those are the questions that they need to ask themselves. They need to be honest, and say perhaps we weren't a team good enough to reach the final stages of the Champions Trophy; there were far too many players who were out of form and short of confidence. And of course let's not talk about the major players missing.

DP: What do you see as holes in this side? I mean which are the positions that they really need to look at?

SM: In ODI cricket, I think the seam bowling in the obvious weakness. It's great that Ashish Nehra has come back and started bowling so well. But how long will that last? You are not sure. So you've got to, maybe, go to two or three new young seamers. RP Singh seems to be really down on confidence and Ishant Sharma needs a break. Munaf (who is out of action now) is getting back slowly. So on seam bowling front they need to find somebody who will bowl a good line, have control, and perhaps fresh minds coming in to the game. Because, once you are out of form, your confidence is low, and you still keep playing games then you are not doing yourself too much good. You are just hoping that one fine day you will have a good spell and the confidence will come back, and then all the technical deficiencies will be sorted. But that is not happening.

I think in the spin department, Amit Mishra has been good news. He has bowled with a lot of control. There is Harbhajan Singh, but Pragyan Ojha is also somebody that India need to look at and try and get him back in the squad.

On batting front, I don't think there are too many worries. Yuvraj Singh and Virendra Sehwag should be fit shortly, and I think you are okay on the batting front.

DP: Even when the team was winning and doing well, there was still that problem of the death overs. I mean, very few bowlers have mastered the yorker, the change of pace is not there. What we saw from Pakistan today with Umar Gul and Rana Naved, that kind of variety simply isn't there. Is that a specialist skill that we really need to work on?

SM: Well, we never had it. I don't think it has ever been our strength, the death overs. There have been occasions when we have found one bowler who has been very good at the death. Over the years, I think our fast bowlers have generally struggled. Don't take an exception like a Kapil Dev or a Zaheer Khan, in good form. We have always struggled to find two or three seamers, who are are quite happy and in fact enjoy bowling at the death. And that is something that strikes you with Pakistan, you can say Rana Naved enjoys bowling at death because it's challenging for him and he has the ability to bowl at the death. Mohammad Asif, given some time and when he gets into form, will be happy to bowl at death, Umar Gul can do it and even Mohammad Aamer seems to be enjoying it. Compare that with the Indians, and not too many are keen to bowl at death. And it's been a problem that has been there for many years, and not just with this team.

DP: But don't you think that's the skill that you would have developed, especially with all the Twenty20 cricket that is being played today, as the batsmen obviously go after you.

Harbhajan Singh, in the couple of crunch games, wasn't bowling his offspinners to make things happen, to create wicket-taking opportunities, to change the tide of the match

SM: Yes, but I think what has happened is that we have had so many seamers playing, and we haven't actually identified our three or four frontline seamers who have mastered all that is needed in ODIs and Test cricket. Zaheer Khan is the only exception. We have Munaf Patel, Ishant Sharma, RP Singh, Sreesanth, but they haven't mastered everything. Which means - bowling with the new ball, good control in the middle stage you know bowl the slower delivery and other variations to take wickets, and in the final stages when the pressure is up, bowl the yorkers and basically be difficult to be hit for big shots. I don't think we have found that kind of a bowler.

DP: What kind of lessons have the other major sides learnt from this tournament, especially India and South Africa who came in here threatening to take Australia's No. 1 ranking, but both have failed; in South Africa's case, pretty miserably, in home conditions. What are the lessons that these teams take, even though this is a short tournament?

SM: Perhaps, the simple fact that they need to get better. South Africa's problem was with the fact that all their matches were scheduled at Centurion. If they had three games at the Wanderers, or two games at the Wanderers, then maybe things would have been different. But then South Africa has to look at the fact that on this Centurion pitch they were beaten comprehensively. So what is it that is lacking? Is a little bit of flair needed? Does their bowling attack need more assistance to be competitive? So those are the questions that they need to ask themselves.

Australia at their peak, the surface did not matter. They had success all over the world. The No. 1 Australian team would have still beaten good teams at Centurion. So South Africa has to keep that in mind, if they aspire to be the No. 1 team in the world then they can't be beaten like this, quite easily, at Centurion, in conditions that do not help them.

India with some major stars missing have not looked like a team that you would back to go through to the final round and win the title. And that is something that they need to look at.

Now Australia is also a weakened team, maybe more than India. Some of their legends have retired, and they did not have services of Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin. But there is a good chance that they will go to the finals and win the tournament. So all these are just, sort of, goals set by the teams like Australia and West Indies of the past, that if you've got to be the No. 1 team in the world then you can't be playing like this in the Champions Trophy tournament.

Saeed Ajmal has grown in confidence and has become an established spinner © AFP

DP: Finally, how encouraging is it to see the Pakistan team doing so well? They have hardly had any home matches in the last two years, almost zero Test cricket and in the next two years it's unlikely that they will have any home games. But they have gone on to win the World Twenty20 and they could conceivably win this as well.

SM: Winning the World Twenty20 is not really the reflection of the health of cricket in that country, because if you have some talented players and you have a good day then you win the match. And if you have two-three good days then you win the title. But 50-overs cricket that they have played here is the real indicator. They haven't been playing too much of cricket at home, and even the international cricket is limited, and yet they have put up a good performance.

So it boils down to the basic skills of the Pakistan team, their love for the game and the natural talent that comes up. And the unofficial cricket system of Pakistan, which is not first-class cricket, but how they start playing cricket in the childhood and how they start playing those competitive soft-ball matches. All that actually makes for a very skilled cricketer, who come up and then are put into more refined first-class system. So that is the recognition of that fact that if you have natural skills and if your childhood is spent enhancing whatever kind of cricket you play then it comes to good use. What you have seen in the Champions Trophy is that their batting has stood up reasonably well, because that was their major weakness. They have been fortunate to play at Centurion, the critical games against India and Australia. Their batting would have been exposed if they had played at Wanderers against a good seam attack. So their big weakness wasn't really exposed, and their bowling was always going to be their strength. They came in to their tournament with one of the best bowling attacks, and everyone acknowledged that.

Everyone though that their batting was a weakness but it wasn't exposed, and Mohammad Yusuf came in some sort of form, Shoaib Malik played that superb innings against India, and everything just fell in place for them.

DP: Finally, looking at the way Saeed Ajmal, the offspinner, has bowled, do you think there is a lesson for Indian spinners. He certainly hasn't bowled defensively in any of the games.

SM: Again, it's to do with the attitude; you just have to look at Shahid Afridi and Saeed Ajmal when they are bowling. On occasions you might see that Ajmal is little tense, but now he has grown in confidence, he is an established spinner, people are talking about him, and so he is starting to feel good about himself. Afridi's growth as a legspinner in the last two-three years has been phenomenal. But most importantly, I think, both of them want to make things happen, and that's why they are out there. Looking to bowl ten overs and make things happen. Maybe Harbhajan Singh, in the couple of crunch games, wasn't bowling his offspinners to make things happen, to create wicket-taking opportunities, to change the tide of the match. I don't think he was really looking to do that and that, perhaps, is the lesson for our spinners.

Posted by Ilin on (October 1, 2009, 17:36 GMT)

here in india,locally,there is an anger in the people,on dhoni because he deliberately put RP in the team just because he is his best buddy,today when RP,is not even performing at domestic level.and a useless run giver bowler has made india lost.he was not even good in lanka series.then why he was in the team?any answer mahender singh? the whole middle order is out of order.good and inform players like rohit sharma,ojha and jadeja has been left out and kaarthik,virat and yusuf pathan was there whose trio cant even make mere 50 runs combinedly.dhony is directionless.he is very busy in shootings of ads,while ishant cant be seen for practicing in kotla ground anymore,and you can see his below par bowling.he is too,very busy in ads and his air conditioned life. people are demanding dhoni to step down as one day team skipper.

Posted by ogu999 on (October 1, 2009, 16:47 GMT)

Ha what a joke? Dravid staying on till he embarrasses! Rather than him having a confused state of mind while running between wickets, it was a horrible call from Harbhajan in the first game. So in the end who was confused? Most of these youngsters should first practice year round on fast and bouncy practice tracks or at least cemented practice tracks and then put up their credentials on the international scene. Many of them come in with big promises, have one good home series against the likes of Bangladesh, West Indies or a weakened Pakistan and then are thought to be the next big thing and then they go abroad for a series or a tournament, flop miserably and are suddenly disposable.It's extremely embarrassing when opposition fast bowlers openly declare that they will target the Indian batsmen with short, bouncy ,nasty stuff. Is this how they want to be treated at an International level? Think this kind of bullying takes place at school cricket level and not at international level.

Posted by Nampally on (October 1, 2009, 16:04 GMT)

The main reason India lost was due to playing with lack of confidence in absence of their 3 key palyers, Sehwag, Yuvraj and Zaheer. No body played with a will to win. The fielding was sloppy, bowling very poor and batting lacked the punch. Furthermore when Yuvraj was injured he needed 2 players to replace him.The selectors completely ignored the fact that we do not have a left hand spinner to tie up one end. Ojha or even Jadeja was one of the 2 while the second could have been Rohit or Kaif, even though eventually Kohli played a great innings against WI. As Sanjay correctly states, Ishant, RP, Kumar and Harbhajan were horribly poor. You cannot have 4 of your top bowlers bowling so badly and expect a win. Yousuf Pathan was a passenger and does not deserve a place.Amongst the young fast bowlers Warne had identified a young man Kanran Khan in 20/20, who until he tore his ankle he bowled brilliantly. Sreesanth, Munaf and Singh are other choices.We need India playing confidently to win.

Posted by arunsahu on (October 1, 2009, 13:34 GMT)

well frnds i dont know why in the population of 120 crores our selectors or not able to find the bowlers who can bowl fast, be sharp in filed and a threat to the batsman's if u see our bowlers are very slow in filed and same time can the way they r bowling we can only laugh on. don't know why dhoni is wasting a talented cricketer like raina bating that low in the order.. if u see the way harbhajan is bowling spinners from SA are bowling better then him. why not we evn can't find a good spinners. his bowling avg is 33.44 nd test one is 32.1 shows how much he lack in his bowling. these player has to learn from sachin who itself is a master class and still going great and a very humble person. since ishant and other place came the find some success and after tat in tat fame they lost every thing instead of improving. small countries like pakistan srilanka are creating better bowler the us in population of few. it just a same.

Posted by rohan024 on (October 1, 2009, 9:19 GMT)

Well dravid running between the wickets these days, reflects his state of mind. Confused and not sure whether to go for it or not. Why Dravid is not retiring is a mystery to me. He doesn't look comfortable at all while batting (including test matches) and more importantly atleast from his looks, he doesnt look like enjoying his cricket. Only god knows what Dravid wants and why is he simply not retiring. Perhaps, he will also go the Ganguly way and embarass all his fans.

Posted by Bidragon on (October 1, 2009, 8:57 GMT)

Infact Dravid should play until Indians play well against the short balls, Indians lacks players of international quality to play bouncers. Kohli can play but it depends how Nayyar play. Chawla should be tested. We found a new weapon in Ishanth but he was awful again and again, RP has become a low class bowler. Right now there is no fast bowlers in India, a man who can bowl some yorkers, a man who can be a threat to the batsmen, or atleast a man who can trouble a batsman, since Prabhakar and Agarker left we have never seen a good yorker, Zaheer does it once in a while thats all. Now its time to rest Ishanth and RP and in comes Irfan and Sreeshanth. There was no surprise that Indians were out of the tournament since they lack quality in the fielding and bowling. If the match was started Indians would have got a target around 150+ in 20+ overs and achieved it for sure, but this should be lesson for the team and management. Waiting for the return of Sewag, Yuvraj and Zaheer, .........thx.

Posted by allsports on (October 1, 2009, 8:25 GMT)

Ishant sharma - bowling with avg pace of 135 km /h but mostly short pitch and leg stump deliveries .

Praveen kumar and RP singh - all deliveries under 130 km/h with bad line and length .If thy bowl some good deliveries , batsmen got enough time to hit in their favourite direction.

Harbhajan singh - He played almost 200 games but still bowling like someone who is new international cricket ...... dont forgot that he always bowls 1wd ball reach boundary for every game.

Nehra and Mishra - bowled well in this tourney.

I think there is no need to bowl like Mc Grath , Wasim and Waqar , why cant we abl e to bowl like kulasekara ( such a tiny built but hard working cricketer).

Dont forgot about indian fielding , thy always misses simple catches and leg stump /bounchy ball stumpings.

I dunno whether its wrong with bowlers and fielders or Venkatesh prasad and robin singh.

agreed with 12kris .@ravirrs :- yousuf pathan 1st ODI gainst WI , 2nd odi in compaq cup ,unable 2 chase 98 from 91.

Posted by ogu999 on (October 1, 2009, 7:33 GMT)

I somehow don't understand some of the comments here regarding Dravid. He was brought in because in his absence Dhoni had become (or tried to become) like him. He was playing more like Dravid and was keeping one end going while the other shot-makers played their shots. This obviously was not working as Dhoni needed to play his usual game (whatever it is?). Nor was there a younger player amongst the rest who could keep one end going and bat through. Forget about batting through, there wasn't a younger player who could keep his wicket! Have we forgotten the last 20-20 WC or even the WC 2007? In WC 2007, a younger Dhoni managed 7 runs or so in all and a younger Yuvraj had nothing to contribute. The fact is that the Indian team doesn't have the big play for the big tournaments and the younger players(many of them are named above) play well back home on juice less pitches. Another fact is that our bowling let us down this time.

Posted by sagar.m on (October 1, 2009, 6:29 GMT)

I feel this loss will make the Indian team stronger and the selectors face the reality that we need fresh talent and young legs in ODIS .we have gone back to cricketers who have played in the past and are going back instead of looking at the future.our aim should be to build a team for the 2011 world cup that should be the ultimate goal.The fielding and bowling needs to be looked at along with the physical fitness of players.i guess its time to say goodbye to rahul dravid and give chances to the likes of ravindra jadeja ,uthappa,ajinkya rahane,rohit sharma ,suddep tyagi,dhaval kulkarni,monish parmar a look in along with pragyan oja and give reat to sachin tendulkar ,harbhajan singh and ishant sharmaso that they can come back need to ask a question to the selectors that do they think sachin will last till 2011 .He is a great player but not young any longer we need to look at the future.we need him for the 2011 world cup .so its better we play him sparingly

Posted by Ribs on (October 1, 2009, 6:25 GMT)

We have some problem with the team selection. We are not selecting the team according to the conditions. Ishant and RP bowling very badly for the last six months. Once we are winning we are noticed these points at all. There is no proper bench strength. IPL cause injuries to Viru and Zaheer. They are not able to play these type of crunch matches. We lost against pak not only due to the bowlers according to me one bad decision against Raina cost the match. Once Raina batted with Dravid pak scared and they are not able to grip the ball due to due factor. If they pick Kumar and Mishra ahead of Ishant and Bhaji we would have been restricted pak to a moderate total. Bhaji having very poor record againt pak and Mishra is the unknown factor. Dhoni spoiled Pathan totally, he would have been up the order atleast to regain some confidence. Playing 6th and 7th position always dangerous to maintain their consistency.

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