India news March 27, 2015

Dhoni criticises state teams for overbowling quicks

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The statistics don't point to India's quick bowlers being over-bowled by their state teams, when compared against their IPL workloads © Getty Images

India's ODI captain MS Dhoni has strongly criticised the state associations' handling of India's fast-bowling resources, suggesting they have used the fast bowlers "without checks and balances", and sometimes against the wishes of the said bowlers. His comments, following India's defeat in the semi-final of the World Cup in Sydney, mark the first time a member of the leadership group in Indian cricket has come close to identifying a reason for the continued mediocrity in their fast bowling, especially away from home.

During India's ordinary performances overseas, it is usually their quick bowlers' inability to maintain intensity and pressure that has let them down. Another worrying trend has been that their fast bowlers lose their pace after one successful season to come back as trundlers. None of India's bowling coaches in the past - Eric Simons, Joe Dawes, their current bowling coach B Arun - Dhoni himself, new Test captain Virat Kohli has ever spoken publicly of what ails them. Instead there have been the usual catchphrases of the need for consistency, patience, right areas, and adjusting to conditions. Now that the bowlers have enjoyed a good run, with Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami in the top five wicket-takers in the World Cup, Dhoni has unloaded on state associations.

When asked what was needed to nurture and protect the likes of Yadav and Shami, Dhoni said: "This is a problem that we have had for quite some time now in our set-up," Dhoni said at his post-match press conference. "Once a fast bowler completes his international assignment he is then asked by his local state associations to come and bowl in domestic cricket. However, there are no checks and balances on the number of overs they are being asked to bowl."

Without naming any bowler, Dhoni suggested there was undue pressure on them to keep their state association happy. "If the fast bowler refuses to play domestic matches, then the local association gets annoyed and would grumble that, 'Now that you are playing for India means that you won't play for us.' So problems are there."

Dhoni insisted on a proper log of the workload of the fast bowlers not just when they are with the team but throughout the year. "If we want to look at the interests of Indian cricket, we have to monitor the progress of fast bowlers as to how many overs they are sending down and what's the amount of workload they are taking," he said. "At the same time, our bowlers shouldn't play too many matches in Indian domestic cricket. They should play on and off."

He did not, however, mention the bowlers' workload during the IPL or Champions League T20, at which time they are managed by the franchises. Indeed, the grouse of domestic coaches has been completely opposite to Dhoni's contention. They complain that India players are rarely available during the domestic season. They have also noticed extra caution and resistance to diving in the field towards the end of the season lest the players injure themselves just before the IPL. The statistics, too, don't bear much evidence of India quicks' being over-bowled by their state teams when compared against the overs bowled by them for their IPL teams.

Since the end of the 2007-08 home season, Ishant Sharma, for example, has sent down only 226.1 overs for Delhi in first-class cricket. Over the same period he has bowled 247.5 overs in IPL and Champions League T20. Shami made his India debut in January 2013. Since then he has bowled 83.3 overs across formats for his state association Bengal to go with 53 overs for Delhi Daredevils and Kolkata Knight Riders. Since making his India debut Bhuvneshwar Kumar has not bowled at all for Uttar Pradesh, but has sent down 110.1 overs for his IPL teams.

A mini era before these quicks, RP Singh played somewhat regularly for India from September 2005 to September 2009. His comeback in 2011 was a one-off shock. Between 2005 and 2009 he bowled 482.5 overs across formats for Uttar Pradesh, but also 111 overs for his IPL sides even though the tournament only began in April 2008. Praveen Kumar did bowl 736.4 overs for Uttar Pradesh while being an India bowler as opposed to 215.2 for his IPL teams, but that had to do with his being a limited-overs specialist for India: he played only six Tests.

Similarly Mohit Sharma, who doesn't play Tests, can claim to have bowled significantly more overs for his state association than his IPL franchise: 372.5 for Haryana since his India debut and 84.5 for Chennai Super Kings.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on March 31, 2015, 5:20 GMT

    No more Ishant sharma. Take Ishwar Pandey , Anwar Ahmed and Irfan Pathan.

  • Ralf on March 30, 2015, 18:14 GMT

    You have to be a real athlete when you play a sport. Indian players seem to treat the physical fitness aspect as part time. It has to start when you are young and start playing. Tasty food doesn't mean healthy. But Indian players can't give up on the tasty spicy food and biryani. To be a athlete, you have to sacrifice it. When you are young, even if you don't follow fitness routine, you may get away with it due to youth and pure testosterone. But, after a couple of years, it will go downhill. This is the reason Indian fast bowlers are good for a year or two and then fade away.

  • Dummy4 on March 30, 2015, 17:26 GMT

    I have written earlier and thats the bottom line. Had this world cup been played on not so bouncy and fast pitches the result would have been in Indians favor. Kiwis and Kangaroos have been playing on those fast pitches all round the year whereas subcontinent batsmen are used to slow wickets. Our batsmen are master to swing the bat and sending the ball to or over the ropes. Not there, a flick of bat is required for boundries. No matter how much you adjust yourself you still would commit mistake. Aussies fast bowlers knew before hand how to exploit the bouncers. Bowlers like Starc and Johnson would not be so successful on subcontinent pitches as clearly observed previously. In IPL series I have watched Bret Lee being punished to sixes and fours.

  • Dummy4 on March 30, 2015, 16:53 GMT

    I think the fast bowlers have to encouraged and nurtured.Should find fast bowlers above 6 feet and pay them good and inculcate to bowl fast.India never had any exceptional tall fast bowler.It should be encouraged.Athleticism is what is required in a fast bowler and traditionally compared to other cricketing nations we have never had any strong fast bowler. Bhuvis,Shamis, Yadavs,Mohits ..are all 5'7"-5'9"..Its not good enough..never will be ..and plus our all-rounders are spinners..I guess we,Indians are not as athletic culturally as other nations are ..except a few of course.

  • Chetan on March 30, 2015, 15:47 GMT

    The real issue with Indian Cricket - there is too much International. Result - Our top Intl. players do not play domestic. Newcomers find their way to Team India a) without being challenged by India's best. b) without sharpening their craft by playing with India's International experts. As a result - a batsman who has not played Yadav / Shami suddenly finds Starc / Steyn bowling to him. A bowler who has not bowled to Rohit / Kohli / Raina suddenly finds AB / Brendon McCullum / Steve Smith to bowl to. I do not count IPL as experience because the size of the innings is too small for batsmen / bowlers to do too much more than hit-or-miss.

  • S on March 30, 2015, 13:41 GMT

    This is poor analysis. The real question is how are the over-ages of the Indian National team bowlers vs. those that play only domestic vs. Aussie / SA / NZ National team bowlers.

  • Dummy4 on March 30, 2015, 9:42 GMT

    There should always be two sets of fast bowlers. One for test squad and two for T/20 and One day. Some of them, if physically strong enough in their fitness should be used in domestic but, as rightly pointed out by Dhoni, not to be overused specially in domestic.

    The recent example of this hazard can be observed in the person of Pakistani fast bowler, Muhammad Irfan. His lengthy physique tells that he is fragile and should not be used continuously more than three overs in one spell. I don't know which foolish selector chose him for Test match. One Test match, and his physique is permanently damaged. Ishant Sharma is still fit, fast and a valuable asset for India. My brotherly advise: Don't over use him and the Board's doctors and physiotherapists take a good care of him all the time.

    Last but not the least, there is no dearth of fast bowlers in India. The search team should pick the promising and young ones, groom them in academy. Rest is the headache for selectors.

  • RAJARAMAN on March 30, 2015, 8:28 GMT

    Sending 220 overs for Delhi is not the same as 220 in IPL ... in IPL, it is just 4 overs a day ... for Delhi, it might be anything ... it is that anything that needs monitoring ... there is no second opinion that Indian stars must play domestic when free ... but fast bowlers need to be monitored very closely ... otherwise, we lose what we gained ... as simple as that

  • Navin on March 30, 2015, 8:13 GMT

    I will disagree with his concept of our Indian bowlers being loaded. I guess the English county bowlers are more loaded. The problem is with our lifestyle and how we respect and take care of our body. It is not about bowling alone. It is about how you maintain your overall fitness . We are very much lacking knowledge in this front.

  • Giridhar on March 30, 2015, 5:56 GMT

    well guys! Dhonis statement is not an excuse nor a reason for semifinal loss. This fast bowling (rather no fast bowling) has been a problem for ages. Fitness is something Indian cricket management should specifically work on. when neighbours pakistan and srilanka can still produce fast bowlers, why india cant. Genetics, haa are they so different from india, pakistan and srilanka. I doubt. its all about stamina whch can be worked out. Dhoni has given a perspective of this solution. Let the management take it and improve on this.

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