It is becoming increasingly obvious that the story of season seven of the IPL so far has been one of the dominance of the bat over the ball, a facet that is increasingly coming under focus following the return of the tournament to India.
One can’t but appreciate the stellar performances of batsmen like AB de Villiers, Glenn Maxwell, Dwayne Smith and Brendon McCullum, as well as those of MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina, but to me, there are two ways of looking at it. It’s either that the batsmen have reinvented themselves in a much bigger way or the bowling has tapered down considerably, with a few notable exceptions, and is losing its zeal.
What strikes me most is hardly any wickets are falling to good deliveries, and the best of the bowlers are going for around 10 runs an over.
There has been some wonderful bowling from the medium-pacers apart from the spinners such as Pravin Tambe, Sunil Narine and R Ashwin, but the likes of Mitchell Starc and our own Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami need to produce that extra.
What concerns me is the fact that the wicket-taking ability of a bowler is now directly linked to batsmen making mistakes in their desire to look for big scores. I think it is about time the bowlers started to think harder on what they can do not only to restrict the scoring, but also pick up wickets.
So where do the bowlers go from here? That is the challenge ahead of the specialist coaches and the sports psychologist who travel with most teams. It’s time for them to focus on giving bowlers confidence and in coming up with something that will help their discipline. Unlike batsmen, bowlers are a lot more apprehensive about what the day holds. Agreed that at the end of the day, it’s the wickets that matter, but there is a huge difference between a batsman getting himself out and a bowler outwitting a batsman.
With the tournament fast approaching halfway stage, it is imperative for all teams to support their bowlers in whichever way possible — through inputs from bowling coaches, through mind-strengthening exercises from psychologists, even from their own batsmen who will have to think for their bowlers and come up with suggestions. Given the obvious dominance of the bat, even one or two good performances by a bowler will be much appreciated and widely noticed. This is the moment when the bowlers need more ideas and encouragement. And criticism of the bowlers is the last thing any thinktank would want to indulge in. The onus is on the team management to create an atmosphere that will help a bowler translate his skills into tangible results.
HAWKEYE / TCM
The writer is a former India medium-pacer