India vs Australia: Time to mix pace, prudence

  • Sai Prasad Mohapatra, Hindustan Times, Brisbane
  • Updated: Dec 21, 2014 23:59 IST

It’s rare to see a three-pronged Indian pace attack forcing the Australia batsmen to duck and take their eyes off the ball, causing a bit of intimidation like Javagal Srinath once did.

Every whizzing ball Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron bowled got former Australia pacers in the commentators’ box excited about what is seen as India’s fastest bowling attack to come to Australia. The speed gun has Mitchell Johnson’s mug shot and maximum speed record sandwiched between Varun and Umesh. It is a psychological victory for India’s pacers.

However, it’s difficult to comprehend that the bowlers who cause a stir against top-order batsmen are hit to the farthest corners of the ground by tail-enders. Cleaning up the tail is becoming way too difficult for the seamers.

Surprise element

“It’s their length. You can’t bowl too many bouncers and make their tail-enders feel comfortable, by taking the surprise element away. What they (seamers) must not forget is these Australia batsmen are raised on their wickets, and are inherently good at playing the cut and pull; you can restrict them for a phase, not forever. They got to find the right length, which should not be too full either as the Australians still play their shots on the rise despite the bounce,” said ex-India pacer, T A Sekhar, who has worked with Varun and Umesh.

While it has been great to see Ishant Sharma bowl with discipline, he hardly clocks beyond 138 kph. To run through a side, one needs sheer pace to maintain pressure. “Ishant is on the slower side. It was natural that at some point, if you don’t have that sort of pace, they will go for their shots. There is also the temptation for any tearaway fast bowler, the moment they see bouncy conditions, to spray the ball. This is when one loses sight of the bowling plan,” said Sekhar.

Australia’s scoring rate has remained around a robust 4.5 runs per over. This is largely due to Varun conceding 5.57 runs per over in the first innings and 7.35 runs per over in the second innings. His first innings economy rate in Adelaide was 5.91. Australia, in the four innings so far, have scored at a phenomenal rate of 4.30, 4.20, 4.60 and 5.61.

Length matters

MS Dhoni, under fire for overdoing the bouncers against Johnson, saw positives: “You maybe scoring big runs, 500 or 400, but at the end of the day it is important to take 20 wickets to win. We need to find ways to take them. The execution power of our fast bowlers has increased. Ishant is the leader of the pack and can consistently bowl in the same areas. Varun is still raw and goes for runs, but it is exciting to see someone from India bowl at a good pace and use the bouncer to get the opposition out.”

Although the top order batsmen’s weaknesses are discussed in the bowlers’ meeting, India didn’t appear to have a plan for the tail.

“Australia have handy batsmen down the order, it will be a huge mistake not to take them seriously. Our seamers must closely look at their weaknesses. They got to find a length that creates uncertainty for the top-order batsmen, and the same length can also take care of the lower order. One doesn’t necessarily have to bowl bouncers to get them,” added Shekhar.

Every time the pacers tried to bowl bouncers, it upset their rhythm, as 27 no balls in two Tests indicated.

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