“Make him smell the leather” is a West Indian cricket phrase when their fast bowlers let the cricket ball fly past the batsman’s nose.
When Mitchell Johnson gave the Indian openers this treatment in the opening over of the first ODI, it was clear what the home team batsmen had in store in the series. Pace and bounce will be the weapons the Australians will use to rattle the powerful Indian batting line-up.
It also gives an understanding of why the BCCI has been against the two-ball rule in ODIs. The BCCI’s reservations have more to do with the fact that operating with a comparatively harder and newer ball now makes the pace bowlers more lethal and leaves teams like India — with limited pace stock — at a disadvantage.
The BCCI’s argument that the rule be scrapped because the spinners are being affected sounds unconvincing, for the facts state otherwise. The tweakers have been India’s best performers with the harder-newer ball and showed it again at Pune where Ravindra Jadeja and Yuvraj Singh bowled extremely tight. Overall, the slower men are right on top of the ranking charts.
The problem is when up against a genuine quick, the team needs to have the ammo to retaliate. And, skipper MS Dhoni lacks that firepower at the moment.
To extract bounce, three qualities are supposed to be the key — good height, strong shoulders and the use of the wrist. In India’s pace pool, only Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma are known to have this ability. Yadav, not in the scheme of things now, doesn’t have the height but has extremely strong shoulders and a good wrist action. Sharma, the only other Indian pacer, who knows the trick of hitting the deck, has the height but is not the same force now.
Overall, India have assembled a decent pace attack and their effectiveness was seen in the Champions Trophy, but their strengths are different. Like most of our bowlers, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Vinay Kumar rely on swing, which can be deadly in conditions like England. But, the next World Cup is to be played in Australia, where the wickets comparatively offer more bounce and the short-of-length bowling is a potent weapon compared to swing.
Lack of genuine pace
“We don’t have genuine fast bowlers, we have more swing bowlers, so we couldn’t generate the bounce that the Aussie bowlers did,” said Dhoni.
To put it simply, in trying to reverse the two-ball rule, the Board is batting for its batsmen’s interest, and its one-dimensional pace attack. India’s basic strategy has always been to outbat the opposition and a strengthened opposition attack will naturally affect the plan. As seen in the opening ODI, a weak pace arsenal also puts extra pressure on the batsmen. Australia could pepper the Indian line-up with the short stuff without worrying that their batters would face the same music. Soon enough, the talk of the batsmen’s weakness to short bowling was back.
Given that the chinks in the armour have been exposed, the Board has a lot of work to do to come up with a counter plan, for this series and the 2015 World Cup.