The writing has been on the wall for quite some time now, and consecutive failures in the World T20 and Zimbabwe has reinforced the concern of our ‘fast bowling’ reserves.
A lot of critics felt that one of the major reasons behind not winning a single Super 8s match at the World T20 was the absence of an extra quick bowler on seamer friendly conditions in Barbados. A lack of faith in rookies could perhaps be the only reason to explain Dhoni’s move of not playing a fast bowler, for he sure can assess the pitch conditions accurately.
But why was a rookie picked to play in the World T20 anyway? Well, obviously, selectors have lost faith in the Ishants and Munafs. Point taken! But do we have their replacements? If the recent tri-series is anything to go by, we are far from it.
That brings me to the million dollar question — where are the fast bowlers? Not too far away, the domestic season’s statistics would tell you. 8 out of the top ten wicket takers are fast bowlers. And it has been the case for the last few seasons. So, either the standard of batting is extremely poor in the country or the conditions are helping the quicks.
In this case, it is the latter.
There’s a genuine attempt by state associations to make ‘sporting tracks’. Unfortunately, their idea of a sporting track is one with grass on it to make it seamer friendly. Since the quality of spin has deteriorated at the domestic level and Indian batsmen are comfortable against spin, most opposition teams prefer seamer friendly tracks to turners.
The SG ball used in first class cricket, if maintained properly, swings the entire day. This means fast bowlers are never out of action. But this SG ball also adds another dimension — bowlers who release the ball are more effective than the ones who hit the deck.
It’s an open secret that you need to hit the pitch hard to be successful in international cricket unless you swing the ball, like Irfan used to initially.
Also, the gap between first-class games is only three days, which leads to two things. One, the bowlers tend to preserve themselves and learn to bowl at 70%, explaining how relatively quick bowlers become medium pacers in the course of a season. Secondly, the tracks need to be doctored to provide assistance, leading to inflated figures.
Domestic tournaments may well be presenting a warped picture of a fast bowler’s performance. Then there’s the IPL where, it is believed, a bowler is tested properly. A player needs to bowl only four overs in two or three spells, and that is too small a canvas to project his true temperament. In any case, going for eight an over is par for the course, and that is almost blasphemous in ODIs.
Fast bowling is a gruelling job. Identifying your best bowlers is the first step and then constantly mentoring and monitoring them is the way forward.