Skipper MS Dhoni’s biggest concern is turning out to be the team’s long-standing ailment — poor death bowling. The talk around it gained currency since Australia’s 2013 One-Day International tour and shows no sign of improvement.
Australia batsmen hammered the India bowlers in the death overs during the 2013 ODI series. It was Glenn Maxwell one day, George Bailey the next with James Faulkner denting the morale of Ishant Sharma. The pacer started bowling at a cone placed at the block-hole area in the nets. Dhoni even felt his World Cup line-up was incomplete without death-over specialists.
Finally Mohammad Shami emerged, his swing, speed and ability to slip in accurate yorkers winning him the death bowler’s cap. With Shami out since the World Cup due to injury, the department has looked bare. At Kanpur, India conceded 109 runs in the last 10 overs.
“It is disappointing that there was reverse swing on offer. They should have executed the yorkers and even back-of-length deck deliveries could have been used more effectively, but we were unable to do that,” Dhoni said.
Improved death bowling is a must when pitch offers some help to the pacers. It could be reverse swing or low bounce. “There were two overs where we gave way 40 runs, and that is a lot of runs irrespective of the format.”
Modern cricket has been cruel to one-dimensional bowlers. “The slap shot and slap-reverse shot have hurt them at the death. The India bowlers are not aware of their strengths — whether to bowl slow or yorkers, one has to figure out what his strength is,” said former pacer Venketesh Prasad, who was also the India bowling coach.
“For yorkers, you need speed and accuracy; err in length even a little and the ball can end up as a half-volley or low full-toss. I would prefer they bowled slower ones; unless you have the right pace, one must not bowl yorkers.”
Prasad suggested that bowlers practice at the nets by letting the batsman know whether he is going to bowl the yorker or slower one. That will teach him to anticipate the batsman’s movement.
Former India pacer, Subroto Banerjee, mentor to Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron, is for the yorker. “If they get the slower ones wrong, the batsman will pick the length early. The yorker takes a lot out of you. You got to have pace, precision and anticipation. I would suggest they bowl to the big-hitters in the nets— Kohli, Rohit or Dhoni—like they must in a match.”