The sight of India’s batsmen No.3 and 5, Kohli and Raina, bowling the last two overs of a one-day innings in the CB series in Australia was rather disturbing. One could understand had they been summoned in the second innings after the match was virtually won. But throwing the ball to them in the first innings of the match and that too when the Sri Lankan batsmen had already scored plenty was a cause of worry. What made it worse was the fact that the Indian skipper hadn’t miscalculated the overs, for the regular bowlers still had a few in the kitty. So, the only logical reasoning behind such a move had to be the lack of faith in the frontline bowlers.
But, you wouldn’t blame the captain, after all. Our bowlers had leaked way too many runs in the final overs in all the preceding matches. The gamble of trying Raina and Kohli was radical indeed but not bereft of logic.
Post the World-Cup victory, India has lost much of its bowling resources. It’s about time we realise that winning a match/tournament isn’t possible with batting alone. While we dissected our dismal showings in England and Australia, our analysis stopped with the batting failure. Little did we realise that our less than potent bowling attack ought to be blamed equally! If we continue to allow the opposition, even on helpful surfaces, to manage above-par scores consistently, then the expectations from the Indian batting will only be unrealistic.
While Dhoni insists that he’s got enough bowling talent at his disposal, and that the faux pas happens only during execution, it seems like too naïve a view. The level of execution rates how good a talent is. A bowler may possess the talent of bowling immaculate yorkers and well-disguised slower-ones, but if he fails to execute them perfectly when it’s needed, then it’s futile.
India’s bowling woes are two-fold. First of all, there’s an obvious paucity of bowlers who can bowl in the power-play and death overs and secondly, our bowlers seem to lack the teeth to take wickets. Ashwin is the only bowler who seems to be capable of bowling in the power-play overs but to expect an off-spinner to bowl in the death is a little ambitious. Also, most of our bowlers average over 40 runs for a wicket, which means that our bowling unit would concede over 400 runs to get 10 wickets. No wonder we aren’t bowling sides out that often. These are worrying statistics.
Way Forward — Play 5 Bowlers
If we don’t have the quality then we may have to settle for the quantity in the interim. Whenever we are playing in placid sub-continental surfaces, instead of playing an extra batsman (who doesn’t get a hit most of the times), it’s better to play a specialist bowler as the fifth option. It’s relatively easier to chase 275 with 6 batsmen than chasing 340 with 7 batsmen. Playing all-rounders is always tempting but if one of their skills set, which is batting in this case, is not utilised, it’s better to play an additional bowler.
We can either consider ourselves unfortunate to have missed the qualification for the finals of Asia Cup despite beating Sri Lanka and Pakistan or we can use this lost opportunity as a mirror to look within.