England v India, 4th Investec Test, Old Trafford, 2nd day August 8, 2014

Aaron quickens India pulse

It is too early to know whether Varun Aaron can bowl with consistent pace but his impact at Old Trafford has been heartening for India fans

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Rarely does MS Dhoni collect a ball with fingers pointing skywards and the ball thudding into his gloves. Even on this pitch, the quickest this set of India players might have played on, he barely felt the thud. Not from one end, though. Varun Aaron, playing his first Test in two-and-a-half years, only his seventh first-class match since his last Test, having recovered from five stress fractures over his short career, repeatedly kept thudding into those camouflage gloves when not drawing a hurried response from the batsman.

It is too early to say anything substantial about Aaron - he has yet to come back for a proper second spell on the day, he has not been the most accurate, this is inherently a quick pitch, and he is not 95mph either - but there is pace, and that should excite India.

Raw pace sometimes get underrated. Sometimes you can get away with lack of accuracy if you have that raw pace. All three of his wickets have come through pace, and more satisfactorily two of those have come with the full ball after he had pushed the batsmen back. Watching a batsmen bowled through the gate after having been troubled with a bouncer previous ball is something Indian fans don't usually get to celebrate. Aaron did that to Moeen Ali after extending, in consent with his captain, his over by one spell.

Aaron's role in the team is to bowl short and sharp spells, but India don't have the luxury of sustained pressure from the other end, so as to give Aaron - like Michael Clarke does Mitchell Johnson - four-over spells religiously. "There is no role as such," Aaron said, asked if he had the liberty to go flat out in short bursts. "Obviously there is a clear message that I have to bowl quick whenever I bowl. I have bowled a six-over spell too, so bowling five or six overs is not a problem. It depends on the situation also. But yeah, shorter spells are always better."

Aaron had bowled flat out on the second morning, for four overs almost consistently over 85mph. Dhoni walked up to him before the next, and asked him if he could bowl another. Both felt they were on to something. Moeen was on strike. He has had problems with the short ball. Aaron said Moeen being on strike didn't play any part in the decision, but he wanted to bowl that extra over.

The first ball was a bouncer at the throat, at around 88mph, and hit Moeen's glove even as he was halfway into the shot. The next ball was a peach, pitched up, swinging in late, past the inside edge of a high backlift, thudding into the pad, and then into the stumps. He would have had Moeen plumb lbw had he not hit the stumps.

Aaron was pretty satisfied with that dismissal without being smug about it. "In the previous match also, he had a problem against the short ball," Aaron said. "And even at Lord's. So I was obviously watching from the sidelines, and knew if I got a couple of good bouncers in, he might be in trouble. Good bouncer set-up followed by a good full ball is a good option."

A year and a half ago, bowling quick again was just a dream for Aaron. He was getting operated in London to relieve him of a fifth stress fracture. "When I got operated, one of my targets back then was to come on this tour," Aaron said. "I am really glad I am here, I am finally playing, and I have had a decent match so far."

There was no question he would hold back, though. "If I held myself back, I wouldn't be bowling quick at all," Aaron said. "I have had five stress fractures. If I am not holding myself back now, I don't see a reason to ever hold myself back."

There will soon be a longer day in the field, followed by a Test with a three-day break. That will provide a more accurate assessment of if Aaron can sustain his pace, and what he can do with it.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ashok on August 10, 2014, 15:07 GMT

    @Alex400: I am amazed that you are doubting Aaron's capabilities based on his height even though he is in 140- 150 KPH range!. He is around 5'-8" which is by no means short. Larwood was in a similar height range- may be an inch taller, but he terrorised Bradman & the Aussies with his pace. Ramakant Desai of India during late 50's & early 60's was only 5'-4" with a chest 28" & arms like spindles! Keith Miller the Aussie fast bowler called his bumper lethal. Desai was quicker than Ishant Sharma at 6'-5". Amar Singh one of the best Indian pace bowler along with Nissar was about 5'-8". Gilchrist of WI -5'8"- was one of the quickest bowlers, faster than Hall @ 6'-4". Malinga of SL is comparable in height with Aaron. So height helps but is not an exclusive requisite in a fast bowler. Tall bowlers may have greater stamina. As for injuries tall guys are just as susceptible to stress fractures + knee & ankle problems. Aaron has great potential & has been ignored far too long albeit he is 24!

  • Devang on August 9, 2014, 10:10 GMT

    Just a point to Sidharth Monga, but you don't extend an over by an extra spell, but you extend a spell by an extra over.

  • Kuldeep on August 9, 2014, 10:02 GMT

    It is hard to believe how India pick their best eleven, what was this guy doing on the bench all tour?

  • Hardy on August 9, 2014, 9:05 GMT

    Now I think the last remaining piece of the puzzle is replacing Jadeja with a quick bowler when outside the subcontinent. The bits & pieces approach really is frustrating & Jadeja for a man with a first class average of 50 looks a very limited batsman.

    Vijay-Dhawan-Pujara-Kohli-Rahane-Dhoni-Ashwin-Bhuvi-Ishant-Aaron-Yadav would be a really positive combination that would excite the fans. Any of the 3 quicker ones there could be rotated with Shami & Pankaj & Ishwar should also be involved in the squad. My worry is who would replace Bhuvi if he were injured? If we could bring back Praveen Kumar it would be ideal.

    I also agree that guys like Umesh shouldn't play ODIs, especially when they don't have a good ODI record (same for batsmen like Rahane).

  • Brian on August 9, 2014, 9:02 GMT

    @Sexysteven - I agree with you, the team you suggested is probably the best available for India. I too don't know why they are persevering with Jadeja, may be at Dhoni's say so?

  • sachin on August 9, 2014, 9:00 GMT

    If they persist with Duncan Fletcher, he will ask Aaron to concentrate on line and length and want him to give up pace. Sir Greg did that to Irfan Pathan and look where he is now. Only Garry Kirsten had best interests of Indian Cricket in his heart and mind and he himself wanted to succeed as a coach himself. Fletcher has no such interests. If Aaron continues to bowl at 85 mph consistently he will get wickets and is less likely to crumble. With Pankaj Singh its hard to believe that he has taken 300 wickets in first class cricket on Indian pitches when he can't get a single here in English conditions. God save Pankaj.

  • Rajesh on August 9, 2014, 8:51 GMT

    Amazing to see the difference between Pankaj and Varun. He may have been unfortunate to an extent but Pankaj has been inconsistent. His over has one or two good deliveries punctuated by absolute rubbish. He is not flexible or fast in the field either. His record in domestic cricket is excellent but I am afraid he is not test match class.

    Varun also needs to learn and can be more consistent with his line but he has used his pace to surprise at least two batsmen in this innings. His catch to dismiss Jordan was excellent. Umesh Yadav and Varun, if managed properly and with support from the likes of Bhuvi and Ishant, can help Indian attack in the next few years.

  • Dummy4 on August 9, 2014, 6:46 GMT

    If I was Indian management I would set aside Umesh and Varun, along with Ishant for Tests alone and won't bother them for ODIs and T20s. Test matches matter more, even more than the ODI world cup and fast bowlers are really precious and rare, therefore need to be preserved better. Bhuvi can play all formats and can take breaks if he feels he is getting overworked. Keep the likes of Mohit, Ishwar, Dinda, Binny for the ODIs. Even if they go for a few extra runs, our spinners and batsmen can compensate for that. Just because Aaron has bowled well here, he should not be right away included in ODIs as well. That would lead him to either get injured or lose form. The kind of deliveries bowled in Tests, sometimes can go for runs in ODI. You don't want to ruin a bowler's rhythm and confidence. Likewise Vijay and Pujara, along with Rahane and Badrinath have to be preserved for Tests. Guys like Gambhir, Dhawan, Virat, Samson, Raina, Dhoni, Jadeja, Ashwin can handle ODI batting. Manage them well!

  • Dummy4 on August 9, 2014, 6:23 GMT

    @Nandan Nadkarni on (August 9, 2014, 5:08 GM)

    Yes, I fully share your view.

  • Dummy4 on August 9, 2014, 5:08 GMT

    India needs two more days for washout to draw this test. Honestly I cant see India batting lasting for 3 complete sessions on this pitch. Of the three batsmen who have the technique to play on this Rahane is the only guy in good form . Pujara and Kohli are struggling. Looking at aaron I wonder what an attack of aaron,umesh,bhuvi and the spin of ashwin with 6 batsmen would have looked like. India has learn to go for horses for courses selection.

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