Pacemen make a statement for India

Pacemen make a statement for India

In a land where spinners have cast a spell of magic over several decades, fast bowling feats have been few and far between.

A few individual spells do flash through your mind but a concerted effort by a pace unit, involving more than two quicks, are hard to recollect. Over the last one and half years or so, Mohammad Shami and Umesh Yadav have been giving a good account of themselves even on typical Indian pitches, having combined pace with swing, both conventional and reverse. While neither of them has run through the sides, the crucial breakthroughs that they have been providing have lent the Indian attack the much-needed edge over rival attacks.

Their role though has remained largely secondary to that of spinners given the nature of the pitches. The Kolkata pitch for the first Test against Sri Lanka, however, provided a rare opportunity for India to field three pacemen. With the overhead conditions aiding swing and the greenish surface assisting seam, not to forget the disconcerting bounce, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shami and Umesh put on a fine exhibition of fast bowling that was at once exhilarating and exciting.

"For the first time… I think after a long long time, I have seen the best (fast) bowling by India, especially Bhuvneshwar Kumar," gushed former India paceman Javagal Srinath. Coming from someone as eminent a fast bowler as Srinath, it was indeed a high praise.  

As well as the Indian quicks bowled in one of the rare pace-friendly conditions, Bhuvneshwar's admission that the pace troika – the other two being Mohammad Shami and Umesh Yadav – sort of got carried away on some occasions drove home the point that just having ideal settings doesn't guarantee the success.

With a number of series lined-up in the next two years on the road and in conditions that won't be too dissimilar to the ones available here during the first Test, it will be crucial that they don't get overexcited by the bounce and carry, seam and swing that they are going to encounter, starting with South Africa from early next year. Bhuvneshwar, Shami and Umesh were largely lethal, getting the ball to seam, swing and bounce on a green-top but there were also patches when they, especially Shami and Umesh, appeared to stray a bit.

Hitting the right lengths, Srinath emphasised, will be the key on pitches that have bounce and carry. Citing his own experience on such surfaces, Srinath said bowling short would be inviting disaster. "Getting used to the pitch would be an important aspect in a bowler's success," he pointed out.

"It's an adjustment of a foot or so. At any stage in a Test match, especially with the new ball, you can't afford to pitch the ball short. That's probably the mistake I made all through my career. I couldn't probably get the right feedback until the technology came into being but now that the technology is there they should make the best use of it. The more they make the batsmen play on the front foot, the more the chances of getting them out. So, you pitch the ball up and if you are accurate enough to find that line, I think any team will get into trouble."

Srinath enjoyed better success in South Africa than in Australia and England and the former tearaway felt getting used to the Kookaburra ball should be the No 1 priority for the Indian pacemen who bowl with SG ball in India. "The most important aspect would be to get used to the Kookaburra ball. When we change over to another ball, it takes a long time to get acclimatised to that. But you need to adapt quickly, the ball sense has to develop quickly," he remarked.

Srinath, who often ploughed a lone furrow in overseas conditions without adequate support from pacers at the other end, thought that with some fine-tuning the current pacemen could be complementary which he sorely missed during his hey days.

"When you become a lone bowler in a Test match or if you keep changing bowlers at the other end – and why do you change bowlers? Because they don't understand the lines and lengths to be bowled in a Test – you let the other end loose," he noted. "You can't build the pressure then. And your effectiveness will be reduced to half. In case the bowler at the other end or the first-change is equally good, then the pressure that you build on the batsmen is relentless. Your effectiveness doubles in that case. So, that can happen in the given scenario. If Umesh and Shami can pitch the ball in the right areas, they can be lethal along with Bhuvneshwar."

 

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