Sran shows promise with early swing
Full, angling across the right-hander, swinging back in.
Swing. In his first tour as an India player, in an unforgiving Australian summer, Barinder Sran may have forgotten what swing looked like or felt like. He was still in the southern hemisphere now, but five months had passed, and this was Zimbabwean winter, an early morning start, and that mysterious atmospheric alchemy had got to work on his very first ball.
It curled back in, late, and Chamu Chibhabha was in no position to play it. The bowler's angle, from left-arm over, had dragged Chibhabha's front leg across towards the off side, searching for the off drive. Chibhabha's front leg had now become a barrier between the incoming ball and his bat. Denied a straight-line path, he had to bring his bat around and across, and by then he was too late. The ball struck his pad, low, as he overbalanced, falling over to the off side.
It was the plumbest of lbws, and only Russell Tiffin, the umpire, didn't think so.
On his first ODI tour, Sran played three matches and took three wickets at an average of 56.66 while conceding 6.45 an over. It was a series played on flat Australian pitches where 300 was an inadequate, undefendable total.
In Sran's first two matches, George Bailey scored 112 and 76 not out. Sran should have had Bailey caught behind, down the leg side, off the very first ball he bowled to him, in Perth, but the Indian fielders barely appealed, and Richard Kettleborough ruled it not out. In those two matches, Bailey scored 37 off the 26 balls he faced from Sran.
In that series, Bailey was experimenting with a new, unconventional stance, with his front shoulder pointing to extra cover and his front leg further across to the off side than his back leg. It proved wildly successful, and helped him cover the left-armer's angle particularly well, but everything was simply going across him, with no change in direction. A bit of swing back in, and Bailey might have found himself uncomfortably, and dangerously, closed off. Like Chibhabha.
Or like Peter Moor, who, off the last ball of that Sran over, got into a similarly closed-off position, and missed the inswinger as he tried desperately to play across his front pad. This time Tiffin raised his finger.
Fifteen years ago, India took a 22-year-old left-arm quick to Zimbabwe, for his first full tour. In two Test matches against a far better Zimbabwe side, he picked up 11 wickets at 19.72, and much of his success was the result of the ball that swerved wickedly into the right-handers.
Sran is a year older than Ashish Nehra was in 2001. He isn't as quick or as skiddy, and is at a rawer stage of his development. But here, now, with a bit of help from the conditions, he was showing what the selectors had seen in him when they included him in the squad for that Australia tour. He has a long way to go, but he sure can swing it.
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo