India v New Zealand, 2nd Test, Bangalore, 3rd day September 2, 2012

How Southee outsmarted India

Using his height, action and intelligence, Tim Southee has set himself to become New Zealand's long-term leader of the pace pack

It's not often that a fast bowler takes seven Indian wickets in an innings, especially if the match in question is played on slow, low Indian tracks. The chances of achieving these figures become even slimmer if you are asked to bowl on the usually dull second and third days of a Test. Though the pitch at Bangalore for the second Test between India and New Zealand isn't a typical Indian dustbowl, it is still a far cry from being a fast bowler's haven. So the efforts of Tim Southee, who was picked in place of Chris Martin, become more creditable. While the other New Zealand bowlers were effectively blunted late on day two, Southee shone as the sole redeemer.

A potent bowler with the new ball and quite threatening at the death with his strict and accurate yorkers, Southee looks like he is being primed for the role of New Zealand's premier bowling prospect.

What is it that makes Southee a tremendous possibility? More importantly, what did he find in the pitch on the second day of the Test that the likes of Zaheer Khan and Umesh Yadav couldn't find on the first day?

For starters, Southee has the distinct advantage of height over his Indian counterparts, which helped him extract a bit more bounce from the surface. His high arm action also accentuated that advantage by a couple of feet. His biggest strength in this Test, though, has been the lines he operated in. Thanks to the lack of bounce, pace and lateral movement off the surface, the margin for error on subcontinental pitches is really small. The moment you offer a bit of room, Indian batsmen force the ball through the off-side. If you try to bowl straighter and drift the ball slightly towards leg, they quickly bring their supple wrists into action to dispatch it. Hence it is imperative to operate in the fourth-fifth stump line to keep the batsmen honest.

That's exactly where Southee remained for the better part of his bowling stint. In addition to the teasing lines, he pitched the ball a foot fuller and brought the batsmen forward. Since there's very little movement available off the surface, bowlers must make the most of the time the ball spends in the air. The longer it stays in the air, the better the chances of doing something. Good wrist position and near-perfect release allowed Southee to swing the ball in the air, which deceived the batsmen.

Southee did something else very smart that many bowlers usually ignore, which was to use the width of the crease to create different angles. Once he was able to shape the ball away from the right-hander in the air and get his bearings right, he started changing his positioning on the crease. He increased the frequency of his visits to the corner of the crease once the ball got a little older and didn't swing it as much in the air. If the ball isn't swinging much, it's relatively easy to cover the swing if bowled from closer to the stumps. But the same movement can trouble the batsman if bowled from the corner of the crease, for the angle lures you into believing that the ball is heading into you, which forces you to play inside the line and hence even the tiniest away movement becomes too much to handle.

In addition to using the crease astutely to make the away-going ball far more threatening, Southee also bowled a very effective off-cutter. Most of those off-cutters were also bowled from the corner of the crease with a slightly scrambled seam. The one that got Virat Kohli was the prime example of out-thinking a very well-set batsman. Many bowlers try to bowl with a cross-seam instead of seam up to scuff up the ball in Indian conditions; however, those deliveries are not only easier to pick but also rarely do something off the surface except holding up or bouncing just a tad higher. Southee has induced the off-cutter by putting more pressure on the index finger at the point of release and by bringing the non-bowling arm down a fraction earlier than normal. The change has been too subtle for the batsman to pick and if the batsman fails to acknowledge the scrambled seam in the air, he is doomed.

If Southee can stay fit and maintain the pace, attack and swing he showed through his 24 overs at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, the role of New Zealand's pace spearhead seems his - with potent support from Chris Martin, Trent Boult and Doug Bracewell.

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Praveen on September 3, 2012, 9:19 GMT

    Aakash Chopra, it's nice analysis. But is your analysis a rather a analysis or giving answer to India's oppositions in how to bowl in India? This column looks a good guide for all other country fast bowlers who doesn't know to bowl in India. When England is about to come in few months you are revealing things which may help them. I feel you should have thought before writing this and publishing to everyone here.Cricinfo please publish.

  • CSKFAN on September 3, 2012, 9:16 GMT

    Two things to notice about this tour & important note for upcoming Eng& Aus series.. 1.Pujara has the ability to takeover from dravid but there is no one to fit the shoes of laxman.. So India needs to find a solution..move ashwin to no.7 and let dhoni to frame the strike with tail enders with some power hitting ... 2.Its about India's fast bowling and there is no use in discuss about this ... Altleast when sachin retires please groom a 50/50 fast bowling allrounder not 70-30 & 80-20... Bring back Ishant before he'd forget his bowling action...

  • Dummy4 on September 3, 2012, 8:43 GMT

    @Arun Gupta. Please don't ask Aaakash to improve Indian team's shortcomings, but help India to reduce, or even better eliminate, their shortcomings

  • Dummy4 on September 3, 2012, 8:41 GMT

    @ravis123. Can't you see that Zaheer is ageing and it is showing!

  • Dummy4 on September 3, 2012, 8:37 GMT

    Southee might have read Aakash Sir's discourse. Sir complimented his 4th-5th stump line. So he went one step up, in the second innings. And aimed for the 5th-6th stump line. Some of the balls aimed at even the 7th stump line. Wide enough for the Indian batsmen to drive comfortably. Moral to the good puplil: If a dish is delicious, eat and enjoy. But, don't hog; you may end up with an indigestion! To Sir, with love.

  • Ravi on September 3, 2012, 7:08 GMT

    Analysis of the results brings out remarkable capabilities of execution of the player. But what that analysis also does is put forth The enormity of the tasks of the support staff in being able to translate to a strategy from the analytical report. And then being able communicate for execution. And then of course the execution to a plan. One majorly impacting piece of information is the physique for a pace bowler. Some of the former star pace bowlers in the national context have all been gifted with such physique and have been at times able to deliver to a plan that was evolved by the think tank. The criteria for a bowler being part of pace academies such information should be considered and role of support staff will also have to be made note of to achieving results.

  • Jeyan on September 3, 2012, 6:30 GMT

    Aakash is the one of the smart personality in the family of Cricket. I always follow his analysis and thoughts which are simply masterclass.

  • P Subramani on September 3, 2012, 5:38 GMT

    My congratulations to Akash on his committment to analying the game. I wish the BCCI would put such a bright mind to some productive use. I understand he was in some committee recently. That is encouraging indeed. Some years ago, Andy Symonds while bowling in a ODI in Sri lanka had bowled with a scrambled seam on in a match and had been very successful on that occasion.I think experienced batsmen could also be fooled when they face such tactics. I am not too sure though if this can succeed on a regular basis. Use of the crease is of course very useful for bowlers like Ishant Aaron and Yadav in particular.Makhaya Ntini used to bowl mostly from wide of the stumps but used to stary in on occasions. He was very effective as we know. Having been a successful opening batsman who should have played for India more often Akash should really be part of the coaching team instead of being a writer.Much as we all like a thinking cricketer, I think he should be better utilised not just in batting.

  • raghavan on September 3, 2012, 4:50 GMT

    Superb Bowling by Southee,even if it was against my own team in overcast conditions.Outbowled Zaheer and Umesh by a fair margin.Hope NZ groom him,Bolt n Bracewell for the future.

  • Cric on September 3, 2012, 4:39 GMT

    Akash, congrats on a very educative and enlightening piece... You belong to the Indian dressing room, as Coach and analyst of the Indian team and I pray that the BCCI has the good sense to induct you in that slot, soon... Southee's efforts were miraculous, no doubt - he made the ball talk... I only wonder how is it that Zaheer, a person born and brought up in Indian wickets and being tom-tmmed as 'the' Indian pace bowler for years now, could not get a single break-through - he has been clearly over-rated and does not deserve the rave reviews he gets from all quarters...

  • No featured comments at the moment.