Bowling at the death has become a no-win situation. The best of bowlers have nightmares. Even the yorker is not a safe option anymore. The delivery, executed to such effect by the likes of Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram, is now an easy hit for the batsmen, who have learned to hold their nerve and scoop it over fine-leg or third-man.
While batsmen have become more and more inventive thanks to the Twenty20 revolution, bowlers have struggled. Indian pacers have looked clueless so far in the one-day series, especially when bowling at the death.
That Australia will go into the fourth ODI with a psychological advantage is to do with the fact that India floundered in the final overs in Sunday’s game at Mohali. Ishant Sharma bowled the 48th over with Australia needing 44 off 18 balls but James Faulkner plundered 30 runs off the six balls.
Better bats, better skills by the batsmen and rule changes reducing protection on the boundary notwithstanding, the Indian bowlers’ poor skill in the slog overs has been exposed.
In the three games, India conceded 53 runs in the last five overs at Pune, 57 at Jaipur and 52 in Mohali. No wonder, bowling coach Joe Dawes is the only one to work overtime among India’s support staff in the lead up to Wednesday’s game.
On the eve of the game too, he was the first at the ground with Ishant and the other pacers. Most of the sessions with Ishant have been spent discussing the right spot to bowl given his natural incoming delivery has been hit on the leg-side.
Apart from yorkers, effective weapons in the situation are the slower ones and cutters. Ishant and Jaydev Unadkat spent considerable time firing in yorkers.
Given that batsmen have become good at deliveries aimed at the stumps, wide deliveries are still a good bet and these two were made to target that spot. Pace variation is still something batsmen struggle to read. The slower bouncer is a terrific weapon too, but none of the India pacers have shown the control and confidence to use it.
There is a lot of pressure on Ishant and Co but the team is backing him to the hilt. “I hope Ishant would stay strong and approach the match in a positive manner. He has really worked hard in the last two days,” said Suresh Raina. “We’ve to admit it’s tough for the bowlers. When five fielders are inside (the circle), it’s obviously going to be difficult for the part-timers as your regular bowlers are not doing well.”