unlike spinners, who bowl most of their overs without the handicap of field restrictions, pacers have always had it difficult in one-dayers; bowl at the start, bowl during the powerplays and bowl during the death. Couple this with the introduction of two new balls which has snatched the reverse swing away, the new punishing field restrictions and you can imagine how hard their job is…
Take pen and paper and list down the names of all world class batsmen India has produced. Now, do the same for the bowlers. You don’t need a pen and paper, do you? India have always struggled to find quality bowlers, especially pacers, and even though there is a surge in the numbers in recent times, the quality remains an issue.
Unlike spinners, who bowl most of their overs without the handicap of field restrictions, pacers have always had it difficult in one-dayers; bowl at the start, bowl during the powerplays and bowl during the death. Couple this with the introduction of two new balls which has snatched the reverse swing away, the new punishing field restrictions and you can imagine how hard their job is. For India, things become tougher since quality pacers have always been scarce, a major reason for the team’s struggle to restrict runs in the last overs. It’s an aspect of India’s cricket that has come under much scrutiny in recent times. But the problem is not a new one.
Since January 2013, bowlers have conceded 5.29 runs an over in 36 innings. Between the start of 2011 and end of 2012, when India also won the World Cup, the bowlers conceded 5.32 runs per over in 51 innings. Let’s go a little further back. Between the start of 2009 and end of 2010, the bowlers have conceded 5.51 runs per over. These stats are not to defend the young bowling unit; they should learn from their mistakes and show significant improvement with their bowling at the death. Rather, these stats are to show that the poor bowling performances are masking the real problem: The Indian middle order.
Batting has always been India’s strength and the strategy has always been for the batting to do most of the work. It’s supposed to shield the shortcomings with the ball. Indians teams over the years have all been good at chasing, at absorbing pressure, building partnerships and hitting the big shots when needed.
But that hasn’t happened. Since the start of 2013, MS Dhoni is the only player in India’s middle order (from No. 4 to No. 7) to have done well, with an average of 61. But it’s all downhill from there. Among batsmen to have played more than just a handful of India’s games in this period, the second best average is Ravindra Jadeja’s 35.16. Dinesh Karthik averages 31.87, Suresh Raina 31.43 while Yuvraj Singh scored 19.71 runs per innings.
These numbers are pretty ordinary when you consider India’s approach to ODIs always hinged on chasing rather than setting a target. The batting was expected to chase down 300 easily, to score 100 runs in the last 10 overs when six wickets are remaining, to win the game.
This hasn’t happened quite as often and India are struggling as a result. An example is the second one-day international against New Zealand when the middle order failed to get going with Dhoni waging a lone battle, making 56 after promoting himself ahead of Raina, who made 35 while Ajinkya Rahane batting at No. 4 made 36. The loss also means India lost its No. 1 ranking in ODIs.
In the defence of the middle order, the openers are not building platforms as often as needed and the team is short on experience though not on talent. Hopefully, they will turn things around sooner than later. Until then, we can either criticise them or wait for the middle order to turn a corner. But to blame a young bowling unit that’s performing just as badly as its predecessors for India’s recent slump is not the way to go.
– Star Sports