When India arrived in New Zealand, it was seen as a big learning curve for the pace bowlers. With seaming conditions expected, and the World Cup to be played in Australia and New Zealand early next year, pacers were expected to use them to their advantage. But after the one-day series defeat on Tuesday, the pace bowling unit looks in disarray.
Ishant Sharma, the most experienced among them, was the first to be dropped after losing pace and direction. Mohammed Shami was impressive in the first two matches, but struggled in the next. On Tuesday, he pitched it too short and wide as India failed to defend a decent total in the fourth ODI. The inexperienced Varun Aaron too got carried away by the bounce offered by the Seddon Park pitch, that too against a batsman of Ross Taylor’s class.
Pitches in New Zealand have been surprisingly good for batting this time around, but there is enough bounce for the seamers to exploit. The Kiwi pacers have been disciplined and mostly kept the length just short, forcing Indian batsmen on the back foot. Here, the home pacers have used their height to extract that disconcerting lift.
At home, Bhuvneshwar Kumar is mostly bowled out when the ball is still new, allowing him to produce swing. But in New Zealand, bringing him back in the later stages has not worked as he lacks pace and can be attacked. That was the case in the fourth ODI.
Skipper MS Dhoni was critical of the batsmen, but was in despair discussing the bowlers. It has left the team management unsure about the set of bowlers who can be groomed ahead of the World Cup.
“When it comes to talent, we definitely have bowlers who can bowl well. But at the same time they will have to start using their brains more and improvise in terms of what needs to be done. This is one area where we lack when it comes to the fast bowling department,” he said.
“If you look at the pool of bowlers, we can keep working with them, but at the end of the day they need to push themselves because with (ODI) rule changes it is going to be quite tough. But it hasn’t been rule changes in this series, it has been bad bowling.”
He is convinced Ravichandan Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are the two spinners for the long term. “When it comes to the bowling department we are still in the same phase wherein we are still looking at who are our permanent bowlers. We know the spinners and they look good and we know they are the ones who will carry on till the World Cup, provided there are no injuries. But fast bowling, we are still not sure.
“Back home we talk about pace and bounce, we get bowlers who can bowl quick but then they end up giving more runs without even bowling at the slog.”
With Zaheer Khan in the twilight of his career and out of the one-day equation, the young set of pacers will have to learn to sink or swim. And that looks a depressing prospect with India scheduled to tour England and Australia before the World Cup comes around.