England v India, 2nd ODI, Rose Bowl September 6, 2011

One-dimensional attack hurts India


How can India stop an opposition as strong as England with a bowling attack that appears feeble by comparison? In the absence of a strike bowler, an experienced spinner and a specialist death bowler like Jade Dernbach, India clearly appear to be at a disadvantage.

It would not be wrong to define the Indian fast bowling line-up that featured at the Rose Bowl as a one-dimensional attack: they all bowl at the same pace, deploying mostly the same approach. Praveen Kumar, Munaf Patel and Vinay Kumar all bowl in the 78-80mph pace bracket, which is barely threatening. Both Praveen and Vinay rely on swing while Munaf combines accuracy with bounce and a cunning change of pace to buy his wickets.

But on Wednesday evening, on a wet surface the Indian fast bowling trio failed miserably. Their lack of success exposed not only R Ashwin, the lone specialist spinner, but also the second line of attack of Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli, who combined to do the fifth bowler's duties.

In the face of such modest pace, against which they could not only pick the balls but also the areas they wanted to hit to, the England opening pair of Craig Kieswetter and Alistair Cook rushed off the block confidently. So unafraid was Kieswetter that he started advancing down the track audaciously virtually every ball. There were a few false starts initially, but then unlike Usain Bolt, Kieswetter had a second chance.

England had dashed to 56 for 0 at the end of five overs; India took the bowling Powerplay immediately, but the England pair added another 19 runs in the next two overs. By the tenth over the hosts had pretty much sealed the match. MS Dhoni, India's captain, agreed when he highlighted India's fast bowling weakness.

"It became a difficult once the ball got wet," Dhoni said, searching for reasons more than excuses. "None of our fast bowlers are really genuinely quick. They look to swing the ball and when it does not swing as it is wet it becomes difficult." The wet ball, Dhoni pointed out, only carried on to the bat nicely, allowing the batsman to counter them easily.

As Kieswetter and Cook overwhelmed the Indians with their explosive batting, Dhoni used every means to try and stop them. He thought introducing Ashwin inside the first five overs could at least slow down the England run rate. But the offspinner was clobbered by Kieswetter for 16 runs in his first over, including two massive sixes.

"Once Vinay Kumar and Praveen Kumar went for runs I thought it would good to give the offspinner a chance, thinking that would make the difference but even he went for quite a few runs," Dhoni said. "In the first five overs nothing worked for us."

The absence of Yuvraj Singh, who performed the duties of the fifth bowler during the World Cup so successfully, has hurt India severely. Yuvraj's canny change of pace and an aggressive line of attack not only restricted the batsmen from scoring freely but also fetched key wickets. Dhoni said that was the difference in the two defeats, first in the Twenty20 at Old Trafford and now at Rose Bowl.

But with Yuvraj out of the series due to injury, and a part-timer like Ravindra Jadeja missing today's match due to visa issues that delayed his arrival, India have been forced to rely on Raina and Kohli for some overs. Today their four overs cost 35 runs and Dhoni was satisfied with that considering the assault the England openers meted out in the first ten overs.

"It is not about the players who are not part of the side," Dhoni said. "It is very important that the five bowlers that we have got and the two spinners make a real difference in the series."

He now expects Jadeja to fill in the breach left by Yuvraj. "When you have the fifth bowler you can manoeuvre the bowlers. But with Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina it is becoming difficult to manoeuvre the bowling. Those are the four overs where you do not want to give away too many runs. But if your first four bowlers are going for too many runs it becomes more difficult."

The Indian selectors never explain their reasoning to the public, so no one will ever know why they did not think of Jadeja as the fifth option when they picked the ODI squad. It makes them appear precious, and such an attitude is only hurting Indian cricket.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on September 8, 2011, 13:44 GMT

    Playing 5 regular batsman and 1wk and 5 regular bowlers will solve india's losing streak Dhoni has to step up the order and take the initial attack, if he does, why will he be commenting that "bowlers had to step up???" id in the next odi if the batting fails, wat will he be commenting" this time around Batsman need to step up???", wat if batting and bowling is gud and the fielding is outdone, will he say"fielders need to step up??" the whole test series was Dravid, Ishant and Praveens show and now in odi series the young and showing the brilliance and now i see is half the team is filling with CSK team, will in future the country's name will be change to "SOUTH INDIA" (like the south africa???)...

  • Oliver on September 8, 2011, 12:41 GMT

    Compare McGrath and Tait for Australia: McGrath didn't rely on pace, but sheer accuracy and consistency. Tait, the out-and-out speedster, had a short and inconsistent test career - McGrath was an oustanding test bowler for many years. So pure pace is not necessarily the answer. I don't think there's so much difference in *type* of bowler between England's current attack and their less successful bowlers of the 90s (pretty much all fast-medium, one or two who can swing it) - but the accuracy/consistency and fitness/stamina are vastly improved. I would suggest that's what the Indian bowlers need to work on. Look at Praveen Kumar: a nagging line outside off and a bit of swing gave him a pretty decent series. He's not especially fast. If his colleagues had performed like him, the result might have been different.

  • Naresh on September 8, 2011, 12:38 GMT

    Here is a list I found on the internet of Indian fast bowlers:-

    1, J Srinath - 156Kmph (99, Africa tour) 2, A Nehra - 149 Kmph (2003 World cup) 3, S Sreesanth - 149 Kmph (Kuwalmpur tri series 2006) 4, RP Singh - 147 Kmph ( Recent Aus series) 5, A Agarkar - 146 Kmph (when he made his debut around 2001-2002) 6, Z Khan - 146 Kmph ( 2003 world cup) 7, A Bhandari - 145 Kmph (2004 Aus tour-this guy was really good strong bowler with good action in his early days, but unfortunate one) 8, VRV Singh - 145 Kmph (2006 Africa tour) 9, Munaf Patel - 143 Kmph (early 2006) 10, L Balaji - 140 Kmph (2004 Pakistan tour)

    An interesting fact here is that our bowlers start off pacey and then slow down in their careers. Nehra is a good ODI bowler and is way up there but not in the current squad. I dont see Kapil in this list or is it that he is older than the list.

  • Cricket on September 8, 2011, 9:26 GMT

    I don't think simply pace is the answer - look at Mitchell Johnson and before Shoahib Aktar. They are/were tremendously exciting bowlers because of their pace and unpredicatability but rarely consistent matchwinners. Although Johnson still has time to change this. So if bowlers don't have pace as clearly India's don't then variety, such as a change of pace, becomes the main weapon. A quicker ball for the military medium pacers like India can be as effective as a slower ball for genuine quicks, or yorkers, bowling wide of off stump, alternate between leg cutter and off cutter yet Indian bowlers have not done any of these things. The top 3 wicket takers in Tests are spinners and yes I know that spinners bowl more overs and are more effective on days 4/5 of tests etc but the point I'm making is they do not have out and pace and use their guile and disguise in addition to their skill, principles that Indian's medium pacers should employ.

  • Naresh on September 8, 2011, 9:22 GMT

    INDIAN FANS should not be disppointed too much of the future. In emerging tournaments played in Australia recently. India finished tops in both tournaments. Some stats from those tournaments showed we had the second most no of centurions ,Most wickets from our bowlers(50), most sixes. In that tournament - Rahane, Tiwari, Pandey,Menaria shone in the batting. Varun, Vinay, Iqbal, Unadkat shone in the bowling. The tournament had SA, Australia, NZ, India playing. We appeared to be 2nd to SA in the bowling department and had more team members contributing in the batting than the other teams. Again two SA batsman were tops.

  • Dummy4 on September 7, 2011, 22:56 GMT

    I don't understand the excuses presented by Indian Captain and Team management that their key players are injured. None of these players with the exception of Sehwag was injured when tour started. I think its not too much Cricket, but its that Indian players are too soft and they can't play real hard cricked displayed by the English team. You normally get injured when you try get out of your zone and try to perform more than you are capable of. The Indian team as a whole not mentally and physically strong enough to compete against this profession English team. Its men against the boys!

  • Tamil on September 7, 2011, 21:44 GMT

    I just want this tour to get over please... can the english rain gods please shower out the rest of the tour? - PlzzzzZZ

  • Dummy4 on September 7, 2011, 21:17 GMT

    sreesanth, variety of ojha, all round abilities of yusuf pathan you need these three players as they are match winners at the end of the day.. that is why india won the world cup as every player in his own time is a match winner i dont see anyone in the current indian line up as a match winner!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Goundla on September 7, 2011, 21:12 GMT

    Since we don't have bowlers.. why can't we field a team of 11 batters, who can rotate the hands to bowl with the same pace as Munaf/Kumars.

  • Ashok on September 7, 2011, 20:36 GMT

    ODI is all about who scores more within limited 50 overs of less, alloted. A combination of aggressive batting + economical bowling + tight fielding & good catching wins. India batted well but failed in other departments. 188 in 23 overs is a very good total. But if the bowling is attrocious even 300 is inadequate. Leaking out 10 runs/over by the pacemen was terrible. Dhoni had a choice to ask for 3 replacements for the injured players. When the bowling is so weak why did he not go for 3 bowlers? Ojha is right in England and has been playing for Surrey. He is an econmical bowler.Aeron has been sent to reinforce the pace attack. Why is he warming the bench?why Jadeja, who was especially sent at Dhoni's request, is warming the bench?. Why not bring in Rahul Sharma for his fast leg spinners to combat a team weak against leg breaks. Mishra is too slow to be effective. Rahul is the answer. There is no point in saying we don't have bowlers when you are not using the available talent.

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