Swami Vivekananda said, “Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life — think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. That is the way to success.”
Indian cricket would do well to heed the sage’s wisdom and make unearthing a dozen quick bowlers the immediate objective, nay, obsession.
Success for Indian cricket will not come by accident. If consistent performance in all conditions is desired, then first there must be a vision. And then there must be a plan to realise that vision.
I humbly suggest that the immediate plan must involve unearthing some enforcers who fill opposing teams with dread.
Scour the country
If I were part of the Indian think-tank, I would scour the country for the best fast bowlers with a view to building a pace attack that would cause rival batsmen to fear for their safety.
Show me a batsman who relishes facing genuine fast bowling and I will show you a liar. I only ever played with one, Keith Stackpole, who enjoyed the prospect of facing fast bowling and was even upset if the opposition didn’t have any good ones!
The rest of us breathed a sigh of relief. Clive Lloyd knew this when, having suffered 5-1 defeat at the hands of an Australian attack consisting of Lillee, Thomson, Gilmour and Walker in 1975/76, he decided to build his own ‘nuclear’ arsenal to gain revenge.
I know India is different, in that conditions suit spinners more than fast bowlers, but the best teams that I have seen in the last 50 years have been colonised with quality fast bowlers.
Much of the discussion about Indian cricket recently revolves around whether M.S. Dhoni should be replaced as captain, or which batsmen should replace the great triumvirate of Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman as the pillars of the next great batting line-up.
Hardly anyone is focused on remedying the real problem in my opinion: finding some genuine quickies to give India’s toothless attack a menacing edge.
Pace and bounce
Pace alone is not the answer. It is a combination of pace and bounce that generally does the trick.
Good players eventually get used to out and out pace, but combine it with bounce and you have a sure-fire winner.
If pace is in short supply, then go for bounce allied with movement in the air or off the pitch.
Kapil Dev, Javagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma have all shown that it can succeed at the highest level.
Even on slow, low wickets, fast bowlers are still fast through the air. If the wicket is bouncing unevenly, bowlers who get the ball to the batsman more quickly and who hit the pitch hard will cause more angst than all but the very best spinner.
Having found the best fast bowlers, I would then build the right combinations to work together. The obvious mix is a right and left-arm combination, but that is not the only way it can be achieved.
A mix of bowlers taking the ball away from the bat with others bringing it back in, can work very well. There is a belief in India that Indians aren’t athletic enough or built to bowl fast. Sorry, I don’t buy that argument.
The key to Pakistan’s success is not that they find the talent, but that they have the courage to select untried bowlers at Test level.
These days with every IPL franchise having at least a handful of quicks, the selectors could quickly find a dozen promising pacers. In fact, that could be the easy part. Ensuring that they get to play first class cricket, (not just IPL!) are able to bowl 20 overs a day without breaking down and testing them on India ‘A’ tours and in zonal matches against quality batsmen is the way to go.
It is a given that every association be asked to prepare sporting wickets — the kind that Mohali regularly does. A good batting side is a bonus but the real stars are the bowlers who have to get you 20 opposition wickets in Tests.
The Indian team will always be vulnerable to intimidation if they go around the world with a popgun attack. Is it any surprise that M.S. Dhoni demands helpful or under-prepared wickets at home from curators for his spinners?
There are decent pacers around. My friends in India throw up names such as Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Varun Aaron, Ishant Sharma, Ashoke Dinda, Parminder Awana, Shami Ahmed, Atul Sharma, Abhimanyu Mithun among others. Whilst this is not an exhaustive list, I am confident that they are all capable of development, given faith and encouragement.
Throw caution to the wind, pick some of these boys and ask them to go berserk.
What is there to lose?