Friday, January 3, 2014

Indian Fast bowling in South Africa 2013

One could blame Indian batting for wilting on a good batting pitch in the second test at Durban, but the fact is that India really lost this series because of their fast bowling which is to describe in one word is pathetic.

At the Wanderers, the batsmen set the match up perfectly. Unfortunately our quicks bowled badly with the new ball at every opportunity ( Once in the first innings and twice in the second innings ) and it almost cost them the match. In the first innings, they got the ball to reverse, which is commendable. Johannesburg is a high altitude city with cool weather, not exactly conducive to reverse swing. It's more of a conventional swing venue. In the 4th innings, there was swing, seam and uneven bounce, but the indian quicks did their best to neutralize that. On top of that Ashwin bowled badly. The length he was bowling was unlikely to get him a wicket even on a turning track. but AB and Faf showed class, and sometimes one just has to admit that the opposition was just too good.

Durban was by no means a 500 run wicket. With the ball seaming around ( not swinging though ) on all 5 days, 400 was about where South Africa should have ended, especially with Jadeja bowling his fingers out. But on a seaming wicket, one needs to hit the seam hard on the surface. Some deliveries will seam more, some less and that is what gets wickets. That is how the Proteas got their wickets. Ishant and Zaheer were unable to put in that physical effort to extract seam movement. That Dhoni did not take the new ball until being forced to in the 146th over should give a clue about how awful these two were. Only Shami was threatening and the South Africans smartly played him out.

Shami will learn and will get better. I like what I have seen of him so far. He is naturally quick, lovely clean action, wonderful seam position, hits the deck hard and uses his brains a lot more than Srinath and Zaheer did in their early days and certainly more than Ishant ever will. Kind of hoping that he gets injured before every IPL season and recovers by the end of it. He has all the makings of an attack leader. Hope that I am proved right.

Zaheer is done in my book. He might do well in NZ, but will again be found out in England and Australia. He was fresh for the first game and did well but looked jaded in the second. His overs in Durban had a pattern- The first one or two deliveries were in mid 130's. The middle ones were in the low 120's.These weren't slower deliveries or cutters. He was ambling in. The last couple were again in the 130's. The South Africans knew when to pick him for runs. He is the leader of our pace attack and his distinct lack of enthusiasm rubs off on other bowlers. If he needs 10 days between tests to recuperate, might as well retire. Also if we are conceeding 450 and 500 on South African pitches, we might as well give chances to younger seamers and hope that one of them cashes in on the opportunity.

His holiness Ishant Sharma's performance or lack of merits an  entire post.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Indian batting on the SA tour - 2013

One of the things a tour of Oz or SA does is distinguish men from the boys. I've added a 3rd category - Impotent :)

Men - Pujara, Kohli, Rahane, Vijay and Jadeja
Boys - Dhawan, Rohit and Shami
Impotent - Dhoni, Zaheer and Ishant

India's showing with the bat was remarkable. I kind of knew Pujara and Kohli would do well, but Rahane and Vijay were a revelation. In ~20 years of cricket viewing, this is the first group of Indian batsmen I have seen that have shown so much collective application, discipline and guts on their maiden overseas tour. Credit must go to Duncan Fletcher for this. None of his predecessors had been able to do this. It was amazing to see these guys leaving so well outside off and showing decisive footwork. I think they outbatted their South African counterparts. Kohli is an awesome puller of the short ball, reminds me of Ponting in his pomp.

The only exception has been Rohit, who despite being the most talented, is also the most fickle of this next gen lineup. Dhawan belongs to the Raina & Yuvraj school of flat track batting. He can play a Sehwag like innings on subcontinental wickets and is probably worth persisting. It remains to be seen if Fletcher can iron out his flaws. With Dhoni just unable to develop his technique to survive the moving ball, India are invariably a batsmen short overseas. But he is the best leadership option we have for now and is a safe keeper. Jadeja has proved many doubters wrong including myself. He is a much better bat though than what he did in this series. Hope he works on it. Unfortunately like Ravi Shastri, he will always be undervalued and made fun of.

Exciting times certainly lie ahead, to see what this group can do.