Aaron shows promise despite tough initiation
Varun Aaron has been recognised for his sheer pace, something he accepts as a "compliment". In his first day of Test cricket, one of the fastest bowlers in India called it a tough day at the office, stopping short of saying that the Wankhede pitch was not as seamer-friendly as predicted.
Aaron had replaced Umesh Yadav, the highest wicket-taker in Kolkata Test in the second Test that helped India seal the series. At the outset of that match, Kris Srikkanth, the chairman of selectors, indicated that if India won the series at Eden Gardens they could think of blooding new faces like Aaron.
Aaron was already a familiar face in the Indian dressing room, having toured with the ODI squad in England. He had worked with the Indian bowling coach Eric Simons, who is part of the Delhi Daredevils coaching staff, the IPL team Aaron represents. Incidentally, Aaron made his ODI debut at the Wankhede last month against England and impressed with three wickets.
By his own admission, Aaron was a little anxious to begin with today. Adrian Barath crashed Aaron's second delivery to the cover boundary. Over the rest of the day, across four spells with the old and new balls, Aaron toiled hard to make an impression. Did he make one?
If you measured in terms of wickets, his slate today was clean. Was there a striking image of an aggressive fast bowler who rattled the batsmen? No. Apart from a few deliveries, bowled intermittently, Aaron did not actually create a feeling of awe. Still, there is something about Aaron, a lean, muscular man of 22, who looks a shade of the young Malcolm Marshall, although his favourite bowler is Andy Roberts, in his unkempt cropping of facial hair that just about passes off as a beard. And just like those Caribbean legends, Aaron can bowl 140-plus kph consistently.
A month ago, he cleaned up the England tail in an ODI to restrict the visitors to a small total. In the longer form, it is all about endurance. The challenge for the fast bowlers on both sides in this series has been the slowness and the flatness of the pitches. No fast bowler, except Yadav, has found it easy to get an upperhand on the batsmen.
Today was no different. The pitch had good bounce, yet it was pretty slow as Aaron's first delivery, 135kph, failed to carry to MS Dhoni. The slowness only allowed the Windies top order to play their strokes at leisure. Barath even charged Aaron a few times, comfortable in his mind about the ball not breaching his defence. Yet, India's new-ball pair, used the crease and managed to create some movement.
With Aaron's ability to bowl at peak speeds, reverse swing could have been handy weapon. But according to Aaron, the pitch is yet to break, thereby not allowing the ball to be roughed up - essential to create the drag responsible for reverse swing. The lack of breeze and the disappearance of moisture early on in the morning meant that both Ishant Sharma and Aaron could not induce any swing.
These are the impediments bowlers in India have been forced to deal with. It is especially demanding on the likes of Ishant, Yadav and Aaron, who are at various stages of graduation in international cricket. Aaron and Yadav are clearly far from being finished products. Aaron struggled today when he slipped the new ball a few times down the leg side in addition to bowling innocuous deliveries angled away from the right-handers.
"The first ball got out of shape and it was not really good," Aaron said of his first spell in Test cricket. "It (the first ball) was just coming on to the bat really easily." The lack of swing only added to his woes. "May be the odd ball would get beaten but it would not happen regularly," Aaron said, sounding helpless.
It is too early to judge or write off Aaron. India's fast bowling roster is no enviable bunch like in the case of England, South Africa and even Australia. Yet, steadily with the emergence of Yadav and Aaron along with Ishant, there is promise. Put them alongside the experienced Zaheer Khan, and the cunning Praveen Kumar, the Indian bowling looks enterprising.
For the moment Aaron is not bothered about what is to come. Asked about the one thing he took away from the first day in Test cricket, Aaron replied: "Work really hard in Test cricket and each spell has to be at the same intensity."