United they go for the kill

Indian quicks have attacked with hostility in all matches so far

United they go for the kill

 “They are hunting in packs,” said MS Dhoni, raving about his pacemen who came up with one of their finest performances in a one-day international here on Friday against the West Indies. Come to think of it, it’s not the first time that India have hunted in packs but it’s just that such instances have been few and far between. 

Of the six ICC World Cups held outside of the sub-continent excluding the ongoing meet, India’s best accomplishments came in England in 1983, when they won the title after beating the mighty West Indies in the final, and then in South Africa in 2003 when they finished runners-up to the all-conquering Australians.

The one common thread in these two campaigns has been the combined effort of the pace bowlers. The 1983 show will be hard to match because the five pacers – Kapil Dev, Roger Binny, Madan Lal, Mohinder Amarnath and Balwinder Singh Sandhu -- shared a whopping 63 wickets between them at an economy rate of 3.47 in eight matches as India lifted the Cup for the first time, ending the Caribbean reign.

Their next best show in the quadrennial event in South Africa saw their quicks – Javagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra – snare 49 wickets at 4.14 runs per over in 11 matches, helping India reach the final with an eight-match winning streak, a record equalled after their win over the West Indies here on Friday, stretching from their victory over the same opponents in Chennai in the 2011 tournament.

While the Class of ’83 bewildered the opposition batsmen with their guile rather than blast them through their pace, the likes of Srinath, Zaheer and Nehra allied their varying pace with bottomless skills to bag a bucketful of wickets. And after drawing endless flak for their lackadaisical performance in the Tests against Australia and in the following tri-series, the Indian pacemen appear to have hit their straps.

In the four matches that India have played, the pace unit – Mohammad Shami, Umesh Yadav, Mohit Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar– has grabbed 21 wickets of the 40 wickets claimed by the Indian attack. R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have scalped 15 wickets between them while others have been run outs. The mean economy rate of just over four per over by the pacemen too is an outstanding effort considering today’s standards.

“What we want is partnership in batting and in bowling,” said Dhoni when asked about man of the match Shami’s consistent performances in the World Cup. “We are not emphasising too much on individual performances. What we are looking for is how the two individuals when they are bowling or batting, what kind of partnership they are creating… So the whole essence of the team is how to win games. Definitely he has bowled well along with other bowlers because if you're leaking runs from one end, it's difficult to get wickets and contain batsmen from the other end.

“That's something that was happening quite regularly when it came to our bowling outside the subcontinent, but what the bowlers are doing really well right now is they are hunting in packs. We are backing one good over followed by another good over. That actually increases the pressure, and finally you get a wicket out of it. In between those good overs, if you give too many runs, what really happens is more often than not the momentum shifts and you don't get too many wickets at that point of time. So I feel the contribution of all the bowlers is superb,” he explained.

Friday’s performance against the West Indies by Shami, Yadav and Mohit was an exciting fair to watch if you happened to be an Indian supporter. While the spicy pitch and some loose shots by the West Indies’ batsmen did contribute to their success, there was no mistaking their hostility. They were fast, incisive, probing and slipped in a bouncer every now and then to leave the Caribbean batsmen swaying their bodies, ducking their heads and quaking in their boots. The Indian paceman were relentlessly aggressive and accurate, something that was hard to find before the World Cup. 

“We wanted to use the new ball, but at the same time we didn't want to try too many different things,” pointed out Dhoni. “What we did really nicely was we kept hitting the back of a length area, and they made it slightly uncomfortable for the batsmen. They used the bounce or the variable bounce in the first 10 overs really well… What they could have adjusted was the use of bouncers because they bowled quite a few bouncers that went for wide, but still, I'm not too disappointed because we are getting a lot of wickets out of the short-pitched deliveries,” he reasoned.

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