'We don't fear losing': Bharat Arun
From the first Test in Adelaide to the fourth in Brisbane, not one Indian bowler featured in all the matches of the recent 2-1 series triumph in Australia. A string of injuries meant the bowling arsenal always had a fresh face.
Four bowlers made debuts against a line-up that boasted the likes of Steve Smith, David Warner and Marnus Labuschagne. That the visitors still emerged as the better side is the strongest possible proof that India’s bowling reserve is exceptionally talented and deep.
Shepherding this rotating cast of bowlers through injuries and debuts was India bowling coach Bharat Arun.
“We have been planning this for the last three years. We needed excellent bench strength. At the international level, you need a pool of bowlers so that everybody stays fresh. This tour will give them (the debutants) necessary confidence,” Arun said in a virtual media interaction on Friday.
After the remarkable performances from rookie bowlers like Mohammed Siraj on the tour, the idea of who makes the cut as “first-choice” for the pace unit may change. India’s next assignment is a four-Test series against England at home starting February. Later in the year they will travel to England for a five-match series.
“They will all be rotated and we will make sure that the best XI is in the park on a given day,” Arun said. “It’s a very healthy trend, an embarrassment of riches. (Mohammed) Shami, Umesh (Yadav), Ishant (Sharma) have a lot of cricket in them. But for us to rotate bowlers, it’s important that each one is fit and raring to go, to be able to bowl 140 kmph. This tour has taken a lot out of these boys due to the spate of injuries. But now, when we have seven fast bowlers willing to play for the country, especially with the number of Tests that are lined up, that will be extremely handy.”
This is Arun’s second stint with the Indian team as bowling coach; since 2017, he has been one of the architects of India going with a five-bowler attack, a big change from a team that’s usually more comfortable playing an extra batsman. The final match at Brisbane, arguably India’s greatest Test win, is a case in point—even with the entire first-choice bowling attack out with injuries, India went with a five-bowler attack by elevating two net bowlers—Washinton Sundar and T Natarajan—into the team and handed them their debuts.
“We decided to go with five bowlers three years ago,” Arun said. “On most occasions abroad, we play five bowlers because to bowl out a team abroad with just four bowlers is a lot to ask for. Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri have been extremely firm to use five bowlers. Sometimes, you may lose matches but guiding principle of his team is ‘be fearless’. We don’t fear losing. Sport is about failures. How you bounce back makes you a better sportsperson.
“Even during the last Test match (in Brisbane) we thought of playing an extra batsman but then we thought that it will be a negative move and all of us backed the idea that five bowlers will work for us,” he added. “Also, the way Washington Sundar was batting in the nets, we knew he is a good left-handed option.
A plan for the Aussies
In 2014, Arun first joined the team when Shastri was appointed the Team Director for eight months. Since the last three years, the former Tamil Nadu cricketer has played a more regular role. In this period, India reached the 2019 World Cup semi-finals and also won their maiden Test series in Australia in 2018-19.
“As a head coach, Ravi has been outstanding. He gives you the freedom to express yourself. We have our arguments, we have our showdowns. We totally disagree on things but at the end of the day when we decide on something, we stick to it,” Arun said.
It was during one such session in July that the duo hatched a masterful plan to clamp down on the Australian batting, a plan that was put to great use during the tour.
“He (Shastri) called me and said we need to take the offside out of the Australians. We felt that most of the runs that Smith and Labuschagne scored were from cuts, pulls and on the offside. We took a cue from the New Zealand attack. When they bowled to Smith, they just attacked his bodyline and he felt very uncomfortable,” Arun said. “We decided that we will attack more on the straighter lines and have an on-side field. It becomes very difficult for the batsman to consistently clear the on-side field. When we discussed it with Virat, he bought the theory. We used the same thing in Adelaide and then Ajinkya (Rahane) was magnificent from Melbourne.”
Having a large pool of bowlers for the full tour helped the rookies settle, said Arun.
“After the ODI series, most of the bowlers were due to return but Ravi insisted otherwise. That meant the new guys had enough hours of game in them. Everyone including Kartik Tyagi (a 20-year-old with one first-class experience) was given equal attention. Everyday guys like Sundar used to have half hour batting sessions. The result of that was evident in the last game,” Arun said.
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