'We need to have a squad of bowlers'

Some of the bowlers were put through target practice and area-bowling, which is why the team arrived at the practice pitches in separate groups. A scheduled 11.00 am stint had to be put off to 2.00 pm due to heavy overnight and morning showers, but India got as much out of the session as they could have expected under the circumstances, the best news being the availability of Yuvraj Singh for Sunday’s showdown, the rains staying away, with Sri Lanka.

One of the talking points of this tour, especially during the Test series, was the lack of experience in the bowling line-up, what with Zaheer Khan missing the entire series and Harbhajan Singh being ruled out of the final Test with a calf injury.

Eric Simons, the former South African all-rounder and coach who earlier this year took over as the bowling coach, has understandably been under scrutiny, what with India’s young bowlers struggling to make an impression on unhelpful tracks. He can take pride from the fact that minus their stalwarts, the bowling attack managed the 20 wickets needed to win the P Sara Test and square the series, though the Protean admitted that work was under way to ensure that young quicks don’t lose pace in a hurry.

“Managing a depleted attack during the Tests was a big challenge,” Simons said on Friday evening.

“In the modern era, you need a group of bowlers , a squad of bowlers because you can’t always rely on your main bowlers to be fit. It was very difficult to lose Zaheer and then Harbhajan, but I was very pleased with the way the guys stood up and played a crucial role in levelling the series.”

Simons conceded that it would be hard to generalise why bowlers lose pace after coming to international cricket. “It’s different reasons for different bowlers,” he pointed out. “I think it’s a group thing, it’s the way the captain uses a particular bowler, how a coach allows a bowler the freedom to do his own thing. We are trying to get Ishant Sharma back up to the 140-mark consistently. He’s starting to show those kind of signs.

“As coaches, you have to watch out for those signs but the biggest job for me is to give them confidence. When you’re confident, you can run in and bowl quickly in good areas. If you don’t have the confidence, you tend to just hold back and aim at the good areas.
“It’s also important to use them properly, and MS (Dhoni) is very good at his job, making sure they don’t bowl too long spells, making sure they understand their job.”


It is equally difficult, Simons observed, to make fundamental changes to the bowlers’ actions, run-up et al at this stage of their careers. “Also, six months before the World Cup is a very short time to change things. It’s a lot more about strategy, about habits, making sure you do the basics very well. We make sure guys draw things from the nets because it’s not just about the nets, it’s about what you do in a game and that’s when a new thing is put under the most pressure. A lot of it is about training habits.”

The rotation system, Simons agreed, helped, but with riders. “If you get a squad of bowlers that you’re happy with, then you can do that but you know you want to arrive at the World Cup knowing what your final eleven is,” he added, looking ahead to next year’s big bash.

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