Mix and Match: The Study of Contrasts

Published: 22nd October 2015 06:12 AM  |   Last Updated: 22nd October 2015 06:12 AM   |  A+A-

CHENNAI:The collective gaze of the scattered crowd flexed between Virat Kohli and Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Then, as if bound by an acquired sense of formality, apologetic waves were waved at Ajinkya Rahane, Shikhar Dhawan, Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma, chit-chatting on the plastic chairs on the edge of the practice ground. Ravichandran Ashwin fleetingly swayed the attention.

The fast bowlers, sweat-soaked and visibly expended by the harsh October sun, must have felt like outsiders. The only ooh-moment came when Stuart Binny farcically misdirected a short-pitched ball at Ambati Rayudu, the ball landing on his own half and bouncing almost high enough to kiss the roof-netting.

Rayudu, initially trying to weave away, had enough time to re-gather and attempt an upper cut before he realised it was too high for even that. Binny grimaced and walked back. His next ball presented the absolute extreme, a half-volley way outside the off-stump, which in an actual match the batsman could have cajoled to wherever he wanted between point and long off. In a sense, it was macrocosmic of Indian medium-pacers’ wavering propensities in this series. Not just Binny, but the usually trustable Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohit Sharma, besides the now-injured Umesh Yadav, were afflicted by the contagious malaise of waywardness.

Their numbers say as much. The quartet have managed just nine wickets thus far, bled 6.66 runs an over and aggregated 49 runs per wicket.

What the numbers don’t convey is that they are yet to take wicket with the new ball.

In Kanpur, the new-ball pair conceded 44 runs in eight overs, in Indore they gave away 32 off five overs and in Rajkot, they were pummelled for 39 from seven overs, and in every instant forcing a premature summoning of spinners for breakthroughs. Creditably, they have glossed over the deficiencies of the seamers—they have whittled out 11 wickets, each costing 23.87, and conceded only 4.1 runs an over. The earliest a fast bowler took a wicket was in the 27th over in the Indore fixture, when Bhuvneshwar consumed David Miller. In Kanpur, it took them 34 overs and in Rajkot the wicket arrived in the 39th over.

Of course, the sluggish strips didn’t collude with them — as they seldom do in the subcontinent -- but before making snap judgments, let’s not discount or even conveniently overlook the fact that on the very same surfaces and hardly diverse conditions, their South African counterparts have made Indian batsmen’s life uneasy. They have influenced the outcome of the contests — taking more wickets (15), at a better average (40.1) and conceding fewer runs (5.13).

The disparity is gnawing— and decisive -- especially factoring in that all matches were decided by small margins.  Proteas’ chief Dale Steyn feels it’s more about pace and aggression than the lengths.

While all three South African quicks can bowl in excess of 145 kmph, none among the present retinue of Indian seamers can legitimately claim so. Bhuvneshwar’s gift is swing; Mohit can at best confuse batsmen with his variations and briskness, Binny can seam and the left-handed Sreenath Aravind can offer a different angle.

Lone Solution

Contrasts.jpgThe infusion of the injured Mohammad Shami and Ishant Sharma can make a difference. Maybe, Varun Aaron can blend his pace with discipline. But the future of a well-rounded Indian pace attack hinges on such variables. The lack of depth was ruefully exposed


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