India’s Bowling Defence

by Ashish

For by what stretch of the imagination can one call it an attack?

Here’s a little thought experiment for you guys to ponder upon while you go about pretending to look busy at work. Which of our bowlers in the current South African v India series would have made the current Australian team?

Zaheer, without a semblance of a doubt. He’s incisive, canny and experienced, and he’s got an impeccable grip on that whole line and length thing. And he’s got a much, much better action than I’m-going-to-use-my-body-to-pull-my-arm-over Johnson. But hey, you connoisseurs already know that this post ain’t about Zaheer, don’t you?

Sreesanth mightmake it. If you force-fed Greg Chappell enough beers, he might well mistake Sreesanth for a freshly de-mustachioed Lillee, and bung him in the side. It wouldn’t work, of course, and Sreesanth would end up returning with matchfigures of 1 for 43,567, but hey – at least he’d make the side. Plus, watching Greg at the next press conference would be even more fun than it usually is.

Ishant wouldn’t make it. No way. Ponting would make sure he doesn’t land on Australian shores our of pure spite. And come to think of it, who could blame him, poor man? He bowls balls that are well nigh unplayable to Ponting all the time in 2008, but has since specialized in bowling lollipops of mind-boggling lolliness to all and sundry in every match he’s played since.

And Ponting would probably prefer Beer to Harbhajan Singh the way things stand right now. Without the capital B as well, but that was always true, wasn’t it?

Seriously, what on earth is up with Bhajji? Now, I don’t have any expertise in the actual bowling of offspin, I’ll admit. But in theory (and like any self-respecting Indian, I’ve got theoretical cricket seeping continuously out of my ears), here’s how it’s supposed to work. You’re supposed to give the ball a nice old twirl, and let the ball float daintily towards the batsman. A hint of drift will come in particularly useful in this trajectory. It should pitch just short of a driving length, away from the offstump, with minor variations in both line and length. It should spin back with some regularity, with the arm ball being an interesting diversion every now and then. The surprise delivery should be a fast, dipping delivery that is aimed on the stumps.

All of India is waiting for the day when Bhajji stops in his tracks, thinks for a minute and says, “Heyyyyy, waitaminute! What if I did things the other way around?!”

Don’t hold your breath.

Ishant and Sreesanth, in the meantime, have latched on to a dastardly plan that will surely foil opposing batsman any day now. The plan is simplicity itself. It involves bowling comfortably outside the offstump without any deviation whatsoever, neither in the air, nor off the pitch. They’ll cleverly intersperse these stock deliveries with others that are angling in beyond leg stump and are over pitched to the point of ridiculousness. And they’ll do this all day. That’s the plan.

The idea is that batsmen the world over are trained to expect tight lines and a hint of seam and swing. This plan aims to exploit this crucial weakness, this chink in their armoury. By continually bowling deliveries that seem to good to be true, they’re playing on the minds of those unsuspecting willow-wielders. And althought they’ll score centuries now, and that too by the dozen, the strain of expecting (and never getting!) a remotely good delivery will eventually tell on them.

Expect resounding success by around 2025.

In the meantime, thank whichever god you believe in for our batting line-up. It’s the only thing that gives our side a sheen of respectability overseas.

Hey, I would love, love, to be proven wrong. I’d love it if we could knock over the South Africans twice over in the space of five days. I’d love it if Bhajji grabs a fiver in the second, while Ishant and Sreesanth breath fire with the new ball. And provide support to that lone ranger, Zaheer Khan. But, um, here’s the thing.

I don’t see it happening.