Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Is Fast Bowling a Dying Art?

As the dust settles on England’s 4-0 whitewashing of India this summer, a couple of things spring mind. Firstly, for all the hyperbole before the series started, India’s batsmen have really failed to perform here in England. Perhaps that was down to a lack of preparation time before the series started; India managed to fit in only one warm up match before the first test at Lords? Or perhaps it’s due to the fact the Indian players haven’t had a rest this year, with the World Cup, IPL and a tour of the West Indies all crammed in to a busy four month period. Either way, they haven’t been able to come to terms with batting in England this summer, and as a result have only passed 300 once all series.
Secondly, and perhaps more worrying is the lack of good fast bowlers in this Indian squad. It’s fair to say that India have had some bad luck with injuries this summer. For me, the loss of Zaheer Khan in that opening test at Lords was a huge blow to them, but the remaining seamers in the squad have just not been good enough. Praveen Kumar did well enough before injury also curtailed his participation, but the reality is Sreesanth, Sharma and Singh were just not threatening enough on a regular basis.
It must be a worry for India that there are not more fast bowlers coming through their ranks, challenging the test squad. Rahul Dravid spoke recently about a talented new generation of batsmen emerging to challenge the likes of Tendulkar, Laxman, Sehwag and himself, yet he didn’t mention any new bowlers breaking into the side.
Some might argue that Indian crickets prioritisation of limited overs cricket ahead of the longest form of the game is stifling test cricket. India co-hosted the One Day World Cup earlier this year and a feature of that tournament was how many teams played with two or even three slow bowlers, opening their bowling with spin to take the pace off the ball. Maybe this was down to slow sub-continent wickets, or perhaps it’s a wider shift in the way limited overs cricket will be played in future?
The fact that the tournament was dominated by teams like India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, all employing these tactics perhaps shows that fast bowling is a dying form in limited overs cricket and as a result the production line of fast bowlers is drying up in these countries?
Of course this brings us back to the fundamental problem with test cricket; it’s not as lucrative as the shorter forms of the game, and it’s not as popular, in some countries at least. In England, test cricket is still seen as the pinnacle of the sport, in fact the shorter forms of the game are often treated as feeder programmes for the test side, such Alastair Cook leading England’s One Day team for example, before he is inevitably promoted to test captain. However other nations do not prioritise in this way.
Rahul Dravid made the point in a recent interview that India’s problem this summer hasn’t been their decision to prioritise limited overs cricket over test matches, rather it was a case of a ridiculously overloaded schedule. India currently play overseas series during their own domestic season, something that would never happen in England or Australia. As a result, Indian players have heavy workloads, because they will play in the IPL and then fulfil their touring obligations with the national side. You could say “forfeit the IPL”, as England players do their domestic competitions such as the Friends Life T20, but the IPL is so big now, and such emphasis is put on it by the Indian authorities, it is almost impossible to see that ever happening.
However, it is something the Indian authorities are going to have to find a work-around for otherwise the shorter forms of the game will continue to dominate schedules, and as a result the players coming through the ranks will be nurtured with this in mind. If test cricket is no longer a priority, gone will be the need for genuinely fast bowlers, and batsmen with classic technique like Dravid and Alastair Cook will become extinct too, in favour of swing-from-the-hips batsmen and bowlers that can bowl accurate yorkers on a regular basis without the requirement for any variation.
As discussed previously on this blog, there is room for both limited overs and test match cricket to be played alongside one another, but the administrators of the game need to manage teams schedules properly. Otherwise test match cricket will struggle to compete with the more lucrative formats of the game and art of fast bowling may well become a thing of the past.
Tom Huelin for DieHard Cricket Fans
Follow Tom on Twitter @tomhue1

No comments :

Post a Comment