How India can get back up to pace | Crickit
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How India can get back up to pace

By, Mumbai
Jul 07, 2023 07:47 PM IST

Bumrah is injured, Ishant gone and Rohit Sharma's team has a tough WTC cycle coming up.

Bharat Arun can never forget the moment when the great Vivian Richards came forward to congratulate him as India’s bowling coach, on his fast bowlers show during India’s tour of West Indies in 2019-20.

Mohammed Shami celebrates a wicket as Rohit Sharma joins in. (AP) PREMIUM
Mohammed Shami celebrates a wicket as Rohit Sharma joins in. (AP)

"The way the Indian fast bowlers bowled in that series in West Indies, Richards, who was doing commentary, came and said, 'your attack looks like the old West Indian attack', that was a very special moment for me... one of the greatest batters acknowledging our performance was really nice to hear. He is a friend of Ravi (Shastri), who was then the coach, and spoke to us,” says Bharat Arun, recalling the memorable moments as the India bowling coach.

Richards was complimenting the performance of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma, who were in brilliant form. Powered by the pace show, India won the first Test by 318 runs at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, North Sound, Antigua. The second Test at Jamaica was won by a margin of 257 runs.

It was a period when the Indian pace attack was breathing fire in all conditions and against any opposition. Bumrah and Ishant with the new ball; Shami at first-change even as Umesh Yadav waited for his chance to bowl. Bhuvneshwar Kumar was also in the scheme of things

Between the time when Bumrah made his Test debut on January 5, 2018, and now, the numbers speak volumes. The 29-year-old pacer, who has been out due to injury for a while now, took 128 wickets in 30 Tests at an average of 21.99. Ishant, the veteran in the group, played 26 matches and took 85 wickets at 21.37. Shami has taken 134 wickets in 37 Tests at 25.53. Yadav, buoyed by his India performances, took 71 wickets in 21 Tests at 24.05. The statistics show why it was indeed a golden period for India's pacers.

But now, as India prepare for another series in the Caribbean, the present pace attack might not be able to impress the West Indian legend in quite the same way again.

Arun was one of the key architects of the team’s fast-bowling revolution in Test cricket which began in Johannesburg (2018) when India played an all-pace attack in a Test for the first time. At any given point, the team then had a pool of six-seven match-ready bowlers at hand but as India begin the new WTC cycle, the picture doesn't seem to be as rosy.

For India, replenishing their pace bowling stock is vital. Bumrah may or may not be the same player after surgery; Shami is also in his 30s; Siraj hasn’t quite come along as many hoped he would, Umesh will be lucky to be picked again after the flat show at The Oval. All in all, a lot of questions and at least some of the answers can be found in the Bharat Arun method.

“The biggest challenge for me is to understand the real style and mindset of the bowler and work according to that," said Arun explaining his coaching method which brought him great success. "If you look at the best 25 bowlers in the world, every bowler is unique but they are all very effective bowlers. Most important is to keep it (the bowler's action) as natural as possible, but bring the natural style close to the basics to make them more efficient."

“One of the important ingredients for any bowler is patience," said the former India pacer, who worked in two stints with the Indian senior men’s team, from 2014 to 2016, and then from 2017 till the end of the T20 World Cup in 2021. "The patience to be able to bowl in a great channel or the channel that suits him so that he is able to plan the batters out. If you look at all the great bowlers, there's only one thing that doesn't change. The consistency level.”

LONG PROCESS

The key to attaining the required consistency is practice. “You can’t recreate a match in practice but you can create pressure by telling your coach or teammate what you will execute and how you will execute what you want to. If you measure how many times you aim to execute what you want to, in tune with how many times you have not been able to, then (you know) where you have gone wrong and what I need to do to bridge the gap. I think player evolution is constant,” the coach, who is now the bowling coach of the Kolkata Knight Riders, said.

Grooming a bowler is a long process. For example, Arun said that Siraj was at least a three-year project from the time he was identified. Even after identifying them, you need to keep working on them, give them opportunities, India A tours, test them out and monitor them constantly.

MEETING FIRE WITH FIRE

During India’s dominant run under Arun, one reason which helped India take on the South Africans and the Australians was their ability to give back as good as they got. Having bowlers with mean bouncers, India met fire with fire.

Arun says the short ball “is a great weapon to have and to be successful it is very important. Unless you are totally dependent on moving the ball, even then they have the short ball to good use. Everyone was good with the short ball."

ISHANT VOID

With Ishant out of the reckoning now, his real value in the success of the bowling attack is being realised. It has upset the balance of the attack. Spelling out the importance of his role, Arun says Ishant gave the attack “the much-needed control”.

Arun feels India has the talent pool through the IPL, Ranji Trophy, India A platforms, to work on. He singled out bowlers like Umran Malik, Navdeep Saini, Harshit Rana and Arshdeep Singh.

“It is important that we look upon these fast bowlers, identify them and have vibrant programmes from NCA, on to the India A and all those structures, to not only prepare them, but give them enough match experience so they are ready to shine when the time comes.”

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