ICL: Indian Cricket League

Australia win pace battle


pontingStatistics don’t always tell the full picture, but when the numbers are so glaring, they’re hard to ignore. Australia’s lead fast bowler in this series, Mitchell Johnson, has 11 wickets at 19.45 and an economy rate of 4.55 per over. His opposite number, Zaheer Khan, has given away 47.57 runs for each of his seven wickets and has gone for 6.40 runs an over.

Brett Lee (5.11), Brad Hogg (4.49), Stuart Clark (3.95) and even James Hopes (4.90) between them go for less than five. Contrast that with India’s bowlers - Zaheer (6.40), Sreesanth (6.77), RP Singh (6.72) and the difference is stark. In the Indian side, the slower bowlers have managed to keep things tighter: Irfan Pathan (5.28), Harbhajan Singh (4.89) and Murali Kartik (5.10).

India has had a problem with their fast bowlers bleeding runs both at the start of the innings and towards the death. If you go by the logic that conditions in the subcontinent are tough for fast bowlers, it’s hard to explain the success of their Australian counterparts. Does it not count for anything that India’s fast bowlers know the conditions better?

“You can’t say that Australians are unfamiliar with the conditions,” TA Sekar, the former India fast bowler and selector, who has worked at the MRF Pace Foundation in Chennai for almost 20 years, said. He was at the Cricket Club of India on Monday, on personal work, and had a chat with Cricinfo. “The Australian bowlers have been coming regularly to the MRF Pace Foundation, as has Troy Cooley.”

The difference, feels Sekar, is pace and strength. “The consistency of bowling line and length with good speed has been the difference. In India we sacrifice speed for line and length,” Sekar said. “If you look at their team, even the allrounder James Hopes whose job is to bowl wicket to wicket bowls in the 130s [kmph]. So there are plenty of bowlers like that in Australia. It’s bread and butter for their batsmen. If you bowl a good line and length upwards of 135kph even their batsmen are not comfortable. Even in this series when our bowlers have bowled quick and moved the ball, we’ve got early breakthroughs.”

Moreover, Sekar feels India have missed a trick by not giving Pathan a go with the new ball at least for a couple of overs at some stage in the series. “Pathan comes at a stage when the batsmen are well set and seeing the ball like a football. But still he’s been able to tie the batsmen down and bowl his ten overs for only 40-45 runs or he picks up a wicket,” Sekar said. “India should have tried Irfan with the new ball in a couple of games at least to change the monotony. When two right-arm fast bowlers can share the new ball, why not two left-arm fast bowlers? We have a myth that two left-arm fast bowlers should not open the bowling together.”

The other glaring difference, thought Sekar, was the Australians stuck to the basics better. “The Australians don’t try too many different things. They bowl stump to stump, at pace, and aim to move the ball,” he said. “Sreesanth often bowls four good balls and then tries something different and the ball disappears for a four or a six. We have to make sure the last two balls of an over count even if doesn’t get a wicket.

“Throughout the series Zaheer has bowled well, even if he went for runs on some occasions. Irfan has bowled consistently well, coming back from where he was. It all represents only inconsistent bowling. There has to be constant, careful monitoring, especially of the young bowlers, and practice has to be simulated to be as close to match situations as possible.”

Sekar also felt India’s fast bowlers were not applying themselves mentally as well as they should. “What is the point of bowling a brilliant outswinger that ends up on the left-hander’s legs? The batsmen move across and a then it’s a lolly-pop to hit for four. Then the next ball is an overcompensation outside the off stump,” said Sekar. “I spoke to Sreesanth before the semi-final of the World Twenty20 and suggested that the best way to bowl to Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist is to come around the stumps and tuck them in for width. He got both of them like that. But if you saw the last match in Nagpur, he only bowled over the wickets and didn’t come around the stumps for a single ball.

“More than anything else you have to create different angles for the batsman, so that he is constantly thinking about what the bowler is going to do. If you don’t do that you’re playing into the hands of the batsman. You have to be a thinking bowler, and that has been the difference between Irfan and the others in this series,” Sekar said. “In the last minute he has been able to change the speed, the line, the length and batsmen have struggled. He may not be very successful but at least, today, you have a bowler who can tie one end up.”

Source:Cricket News

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 17th, 2007 and is filed under General, Cricket.

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