Fast and furious but at risk
India have found genuine fast bowlers in the last couple of years but lack of proper facilities and guidance have left them prone to frequent breakdowns. Debjeet Kundu writes.india Updated: May 17, 2012 01:39 IST
Legends of the game have invariably been batsmen. Tales of how they nullified brilliant bowling attacks in trying circumstances are still recounted with passion. And these legends had one thing in common - they triumphed over vicious pace bowling.
Even in this era of foxing batsmen with mystery balls and unsettling them with nagging length, fast bowlers still set the benchmark for batsmen. They are a special lot.
India has never been a land of fast bowlers.
Kapil Dev was potent because of his swing and control; otherwise, it's a place known for world-class spinners. The era post-Javagal Srinath didn't see anything more than skiddy medium pacers who relied on swing.
It is only recently that the likes of Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron have burst onto the scene and made people sit up and take note.
"India's bowlers have evolved immensely in the last few years," says former India bowling coach Eric Simons.
"They are working a lot more on their fitness." But with the trend of frequent breakdowns and injuries - especially with the IPL taking a toll - will India be able to keep their new crop of quick bowlers from burning out?
Handle with care
"For someone hitting the 145kmph mark consistently, Umesh and Varun are quite accurate," says Delhi Daredevils bowling mentor TA Sekar.
"But they have to be monitored regularly." Sekar, who churned out pacers at the MRF Foundation for two decades, coached these two in their formative years.
And he laments the lack of facilities to groom speedsters in India.
"I feel the BCCI should have a high-performance centre where genuine coaches, and not run-of-the-mill ones, suggest corrective measures and guide the bowlers. We need people who can make a difference to training programmes and help bowlers rehabilitate better," says Sekar, who is currently handling arguably the best pace attack in the IPL.
His colleague in the Daredevils, Simons too feels that grooming at the grassroots, and not the stature or built, is what matters.
"It's a lot to do with the way they train," he says.
"A guy is expected to bowl a lot of overs (in domestic cricket). But you can't keep going in the same vein for days on end. They have to be looked after.
"Pacers will have injuries, that is destined to happen," says Sekar.
"When someone runs in with such steam…it's an explosive physical action. To sustain the wear and tear, bowlers need strong muscles," says the former international, lamenting how people used to once criticise gyms saying that bowlers would become bodybuilders.
Simons says that when he became a part of the India team, he found quite a few lagging on the physical front. "(Without high fitness levels) You can bowl quickly, but then you'll succumb to injuries soon."
And, the two coaches feel India bowlers curb their pace to prolong their careers. A case in point is Munaf Patel. Billed as one the fastest the country has produced, Munaf started bowling gentle medium.
"People bowling at over 140 regularly are rare. They have to be encouraged to become fast bowlers…even if they give away a few runs, they shouldn't get disheartened," feels Simons.