In the movie ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,’ the protagonist Benjamin is born with the physical appearance of a 70-year-old man and gradually becomes a child. Like the protagonist Benjamin, Indian fast bowlers also have a reverse development cycle. They come into the team with a lot of promise, and somehow lose their bowling abilities in quick succession and disappear faster than they came. Unlike any other country’s fast bowlers, Indian fast bowlers don’t improve but they deteriorate with time.
Irfan Pathan and Bhuvneshwar Kumar are examples of this reverse progression. They came in team as promising swing bowlers and wowed the world with their swing bowling in their debut year, but somehow in coming years, instead of improving their skill, they lost their ability to swing the ball. Bhuvneshwar Kumar fall was even steeper than Irfan’s fall.
in debut year
since debut year
| Avg/Eco after
*Avg = Runs/Wicket, Eco = Runs/Over
If we make a list of such bowlers, the list would be longer than Ishant Sharma.
One thing that is common among all these fast bowlers is that they never seem to have heard one the best clichés of cricketing world- consistency in line and length- and as a result, their erratic bowling often let down the captain, the team and the fans.
It’s true that cricket has decisively turned in favour of the batsmen; bats have become broader, heavier and more powerful; pitches are flat; fielding and other rules have also been tweaked in the ODIs to help the batsmen. But that can’t be an excuse for bad bowling performances, that, over the years, Indian bowlers have mastered. When bowlers around the world are improving their skill-set to outdo the batsmen, Indian bowlers are busy making past mistakes.
If someone asks question that how many times have you seen Indian fast bowlers bowling down the leg when captain has set a 7-2 off-side field, or how many times have you seen Indian fast bowlers bowling full length delivery, the very moment captain has set field for short-pitch delivery or vice-a-versa? Answer to each of the question is: almost every time. Captain Dhoni looks like a clueless man in these circumstances, not for any of his fault but because of the failures of his bowlers to execute the plan. A look at the stats of few fast bowlers shows how bad they have been in past couple of months.
Performance of bowlers since World Cup 2015
|Bowler||Career Avg/Eco||Match Played
since WC 2015
since WC 2015
Jasprit Bumrah is new kid on the block. He is not express like Shoaib Akhtar neither has perfection of Glenn McGrath nor has swing of Wasim Akram and yet he is a revelation for Team India. He has just played 4 match, so it would be highly inappropriate to even write his name in same sentence along with these great bowlers but his name is worth mentioning in this article because in last few matches he has shown Indian fast bowlers how to bowl.
In no way, I am raising hope that he can be new bowling sensation for India. He may end up as a bowling star that India is yearning for or may disappear after 20-30 matches like others in the past have disappeared but he has definitely caught the eyes of everyone in this short duration.
He is delivering “Yorkers” which is worth gold in ODI. Number of yorkers that he bowled in last four matches is more than number of yorkers bowled by Indian bowlers (barring Md. Shami) in a year or two. Indian fast bowlers neither mastered art of bowling yorkers nor they seem to be interested in learning the art. Dhoni is his last presser of 2016 Australian tour said that yorker is a delivery that should be in repertoire of every fast bowler. How they use and how often they use it is a different issue but they should possess skill to deliver yorkers.
Bowling Yorkers requires lot of effort and practise. Wasim Akram says that to bowl yorkers, bowlers need to be fully fit as they have to bend their back and put pressure on their body. It also requires a lot of effort in nets. With kind of fitness level that Indian bowlers have, no wonder they don’t seem to be interested in learning the art of bowling yorkers. They are just too unfit to even bowl. How often Indian bowlers get injured is also a mystery. Md. Shami, who was leader of the pack till World Cup 2015 and was doing well in that role, has recently joined that infamous list of injured bowlers.
Another lesson that can be learnt by Indian fast bowlers from Bumrah is how he sticks with team’s plans and how he bowls according to field that has been set by captain. In a recent T20 match against Australia, Bumrah went for few runs in Initial overs but he didn’t lose faith in his bowling and continued to bowl in same areas with some changes in fielding to save boundaries. He delivered well directed bouncers that hurried batsmen and caused problems to the likes of Steve Smith and David Warner who are in form of their life. On the other hand, when Indian fast bowlers were attacked in past 2-3 years, they bowled on both side of wicket and were further punished by batsmen.
Another aspect which has been missing is wicket taking ability of Indian fast bowlers. Bumrah did a decent job in opening spell and did very well in death overs. This could be a lesson to Indian fast bowlers who just wait for batsmen to commit mistakes to get a wicket whereas Bumrah created opportunity with right variations in his bowling.
Another area of concern for Indian bowlers is death over. They deliver far too many good length balls in death that are easily dispatched over the boundaries by modern day cricketers. Yorkers, bouncers, slower deliveries which has been missing over the years, have come in abundance since inclusion of Bumrah in the team.
Bumrah has played just 4 matches and this is just too small a sample to deliver any kind judgement on his bowling but it certainly exposes Indian bowlers and bowling coaches that India had in these years. Why couldn’t bowling coaches made these bowlers consistently bowl yorkers, wide yorkers, slower deliveries, well directed bouncers, loopy bouncers is a puzzle that needs to be solved, responsibilities for this needs to be fixed and some heads must roll. India can’t always rely on their batsmen to win the matches for them, bowlers need to step up and match the best in the world and for that bowlers need to follow natural progression not the reverse progression that they are following these days.