Aaron should be used as 'strike bowler' - Mhambrey
Varun Aaron is fit again and is likely to be India A's strike bowler along with Umesh Yadav, according to bowling coach Paras Mhambrey. Aaron had missed the first unofficial Test against Australia A with fever, but has since resumed bowling in Chennai.
"We had a session yesterday," Mhambrey said. "He [Aaron] bowled and looking at that, he is fit. Obviously, we will monitor the way he bowls in this game and then assess what we really need to do."
Aaron began his training on Monday with some light exercises before bowling to India A captain Cheteshwar Pujara and Abinav Mukund in the nets. Mhambrey had been in Aaron's ear for much of that time and thought it best that he be used as an attacking option against the touring Australians.
"These are your strike bowlers and you have to use them like that. For many years, I don't think we have had two quality bowlers who have bowled 140-150 kph plus in pairs. Earlier, we had Sri [Javagal Srinath] who could touch 140 kph and beyond. But [now we] have a crop of fast bowlers out here, two young fast bowlers, who are touching 140 and beyond that."
Then should the senior team also stick with the same strategy? Mhambrey chose to leave that query for India's Test captain Virat Kohli, who will be part of the A team that takes the field on Wednesday.
"I am sure Virat has certain plans, but for us [India A] out here in this game, I think you use them [Umesh and Aaron] as strike bowlers. They are the wicket-taking bowlers for us."
India's tour of Sri Lanka tour in August is looming. Kohli himself had been a last-minute inclusion because he wanted some match practice before flying out. But Mhambrey stressed that the immediate focus was on Australia A: "I think Sri Lanka is further off right now. Obviously, the focus for him [Aaron] will be this game and it will be for us as well. We just want to make sure that we prepare in the best manner possible for this series."
Mhambrey also expressed satisfaction at how the seamers have bowled on a slow MA Chidambaram pitch. "Honestly I think, looking at the wicket, there wasn't enough purchase for the seamers. The ball wasn't coming on that well, plus the conditions were pretty hot. So looking overall at the game, in terms of the way we bowled, they played out their roles and that's what we wanted and I am pretty happy with that."
Unresponsive pitches aside, the major worry for most fast bowlers is the threat of injury. Aaron has tackled his share, including recurring back problems. Umesh too had been bothered by back issues and Mohammed Shami played the Australia tour which began in December last year and the World Cup which ended in March this year through a knee injury.
"These guys play a lot of cricket. They bowl a lot and its the management part we will have to look in," Mhambrey said. "How to get the best out of a particular bowler. These guys are not medium-pacers and they put a lot of stress on their bodies. Currently for the crop of fast bowlers we have, injury management will be an important issue."
Mhambrey was also pleased about working with India A coach Rahul Dravid. The two of them had made their Test debuts for India on the tour of England in 1996.
"We have played together in one phase of our career, now in other part we are coaches," Mhambrey said "So basically in a series like this, its more, more about the mental aspect, preparing the guys in terms of the game, its not too much of technical. When you do lot of interactions with someone like Rahul and the other guys as well, including the younger crop, you kind of understand their thinking. It helps me to get a knack of what kind of thinking they have and how do we go looking into applying that to the first-class level for all other players."
Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo