India’s worries down under

The Indian Cricket team has looked wayward in the ODI series vs Australia due to lack of bowling options and the hangover of the IPL

The Indian Cricket team has looked wayward in the ODI series vs Australia due to lack of bowling options and the hangover of the IPL

 On November 27, Australia exposed a chink in India’s armour in front of the world – lack of a sixth bowler. Mohammed Shami was India’s best bowler on view – 10-0-59-3 but the other four faltered. Their analysis read: Jasprit Bumrah (1/73), Navdeep Saini (1/83), Yuzvendra Chahal (1/89), most runs conceded by an Indian spinner in ODIs, and Ravindra Jadeja (0/63). With Hardik Pandya not bowling these days, Virat Kohli had no one to turn to for relief. In fact, Kohli would have been in far greater trouble had a struggling Chahal left the field a couple of overs earlier.

Perhaps, he would have had to bring on himself to bowl a couple of overs. It is going to be a problem for India throughout the length of this Australian summer, except, perhaps, in Tests where they have the option of Hanuma Vihari. Since Vihari does not figure in the white-ball scheme of things as of now, India does not have a batsman who can bowl in those formats.

In contrast, Australia can turn to Glenn Maxwell for those cushion overs or for that matter even Steve Smith. A few years ago, India too was blessed with a batsmen who could have slipped in a few overs – Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh and more recently Kedar Jadhav. But in recent years, batsmen have become more unilateral and the best example of it is Rohit Sharma. Rohit used to turn in for a couple of overs in the initial part of his career but he does not bowl anymore as it increases the chances of him getting injured.

Now, the Indian top-order is bristling with Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Manish Pandey, Mayank Agarwal, Shreyas Iyer etc for whom bowling is a completely alien concept. Not very far back in the past, we had seen a Tendulkar or a Sehwag bowling at nets after their batting stint and Harsha Bhogle said as much in the post-match show of the host broadcaster.

TROUBLED: Hardik Pandya has not been able to bowl in this tour due to his injury

“A Sehwag or a Tendulkar got better at it while bowling at nets.” But they have been replaced by throwdown experts, of whom Kohli is a great fan. While sidearm throws can help batsmen help cope with pace and bounce, so is the theory, it has pushed batsmen into a comfort zone, they don’t need to worry about developing an additional skill.

 It is not that India did not try to find a batsman who can bowl. They tried the likes of Vijay Shankar, Shivam Dube, Krunal Pandya, Axar Patel in recent times but none managed to cement their place in the ODI side. If anyone of them were available on Friday, at least in theory, he could have come in for someone like Shreyas or Hardik.

 The situation does not look rosy, as it is not clear when Hardik can return to bowl as he is correcting his bowling action to reduce the workload. During the post-match press conference, Hardik said: “We will have to find someone who has already played for India and groom them and find a way to make them play. It is always going to be difficult when you go with five bowlers, because if somebody is having an off day, you won’t have someone to fulfil. …More than injury, it is about the sixth bowler’s role. If someone is having a bad day, so the other guys get more cushion,” he said.

“I am working on my bowling. I am going to come in when the time is right,” said Pandya. From a personal perspective, Hardik can wait but India can’t afford to wait for that right time especially when the year of World T20 is closer. Perhaps, India need to intensify their search in domestic cricket for a batsman who can bowl

Playing three months of the IPL just before the Australia series has been a dampener for the India team. The only cricket the Indians played since the start of the Covid 19 pandemic was the IPL. They had gotten used to the slam-bang action of the shortest format of the game

It had been 290 days since India last played an ODI prior to the start of the series, and that to an extent somehow drained the players from the habit of playing a longer format.

Hence the bowlers were wayward with their line and lengths as they had to bowl a quota of 10 overs compared to the four in T20, and the batsmen got out playing cheap shots. Even Virat Kohli gave the bowlers two over spells, not allowing them to settle down

Australia on the other hand last played an ODI series vs England in September just before the IPLstarted. Hence they got their combinations correct right from the onset of the series.

(Cover: STRUGGLING: Virat Kohli looks dejected after getting out in the second ODI PHOTOS: Getty Images)

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