Lack of speed was a major factor in the Indian seamers proving ineffective on the second day of the Test against England. James Anderson has impressed with his ability to swing and also to reverse the ball but Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma came a cropper on Thursday.
Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram were skilful with the ball. They could also put the fear in the mind of the batsmen. “They bowled at 140-145,” said former Test opener Navjyot Singh Sidhu, having borne the brunt of their fury that they could unleash even on placid pitches of Sharjah.
The ball, in cricket parlance, has to be ‘maintained’ for the bowlers to attain the reverse swing. “It is not rocket science. You keep one side shiny and the other half rough; one side light and the other side heavy. You have to hide the shiny side too,’ said former Test seamer Manoj Prabhakar, acknowledged as a very foxy bowler.
The ball ‘maintainance’ job is normally performed by two fielders, preferably those close to the bowler at mid-on or mid-off. Sidhu was known to do a goob job. “Not like that. Of course, you have to maintain the ball but then it is not just about the shine and the rough side of the ball. It is about speed,’ said Sidhu.
Anderson, insisted Prabhakar, was a fine exponent of the art of fast bowling. “He is strong and fast. He lands the ball so beautifully on seam. He is good with the normal swing too but importantly he has speed. You can’t reverse swing the ball if you are bowling at 132-135. Zaheer and Ishant, I am afraid, did not look capable of making the ball talk.”
Ishant was slower than Zaheer, who put in his best effort. But then the fitness of Zaheer and match-fitness of Ishant have been subjects that have remained unanswered by the team management. “Zaheer is being used in long spells and he is making an effort. It is visible but Ishant doesn’t appear match fit. Ishant’s line was poor and he surely had a landing problem. He is not able to land the ball on the seam,” observed Prabhakar.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s dismissal, fending the ball, ought to have been an encouraging signal for the Indians. But Ishant and Zaheer faded. The ball too was changed and the replacement ball hardly helped their cause. The ball could not be maintained. Tomorrow shall be another day as Zaheer and Ishant carry the responsibility of delivering and arresting the distress in the dressing room.