The Indian cricket has always been revolving around the batsmen and their stardom! Barring one Kapil Dev or Anil Kumble, it was always about those flat pitch heroes and tigers at home who would demolish any bowling attack in the world for sixes and fours. The crowd would roar at 200 decibels when Tendulkars and Sehwags hit fours and sixes but mostly would give an indifferent applause when a fast bowler takes a wicket after 15 or 20 overs of toiling. It’s a fact and it’s unfortunately part of our culture.
Unfortunately, the ‘celebrated’ batting lineup would cease to exist in an year or so as our heroes prepare to retire soon. This would definitely leave a huge void for a team that’s so much dependent on batsmen. Unfortunately the upcoming heroes are not even 50% as competent as our current batting heroes, nor they have the temperament to play longer versions of the game. This makes me think that, it’s about time we recognized our bowling unit and upcoming fast bowlers and changed the composition of the team to favor bowlers and batsmen equally.
After the Kapil Dev and Javagal Srinath eras, we were fortunate to identify 5-6 good quality fast bowlers in the past six to eight years. Unfortunately, since we had to help our batsmen (and even Anil Kumble) for home matches, we ended up making dead pitches forever until our pace bowlers consistently developed injuries. Their plight and cry were never heard nor they were recognized like the way batsmen were felicitated. And the result was, many careers were cut short and/or ended with mediocre career statistics whereas the flat pitch heroes kept on evolving.
Change the system
I could think of the following game changers if we have to sustain for long term as a good cricketing nation.
- Convert half our pitches to super fast bowling tracks
- Play more away matches with countries like South Africa, England and Australia than the usual Sri Lanka
- Change the composition of the test team to 5 batsmen, 1 WK batsman, 5 bowlers
- Reassure and develop fast bowlers and fast bowling allrounders
3rd one has to be a very strong decision and that is the only way we can avoid injuries and shame to our bowling unit. Based on the pitch requirements it can be either 4 fast bowlers and 1 spinner or 3 pacemen and 2 spinners. However, this can work very well ONLY if we have a fast bowling all rounder.
Why a fast bowling all rounder is important?
If you look around all top performing international cricket team, they always had a fast bowling all rounder such as Jacques Kallis, Shane Watson, Abdul Razaq, Dwyane Bravo, Angelo Mathews etc. All these teams had such all rounders in the past as well. India, barring Kapil Dev or Mohinder Amarnath, didn’t quite have any such top performing all rounders. All that we get to see is mediocre batsmen with no technics but could turn their arms a bit to do crappy spin bowling. The fact is that unless you find somebody in that critical #7 position, you are always going to pick 7 batsmen (including wicket keeper batsman) and four bowlers thereby having to fill the gap of the fifth bowler with part-timers.
How good fast bowlers evolve?
Good quality fast bowlers and fast bowling all-rounders can only be evolved if you have the pitch infrastructure to suit the same. This will also help good batsmen as they try to negotiate fiery bouncers and genuine fast bowling thereby making them successful abroad as well.
It’s all about the pitch infrastructure now! If the authorities have the guts to do something about it, we can be a great cricketing team who can perform consistently better than even Australia under any given conditions. We need a balanced team that give equal opportunities for batsmen, pacemen, spinners and the wicket keeper. If not, Rainas and Gambhirs will continue to thrive and become major heroes at home! There’s no dearth of money here with the authorities, it just needs one bold step!