New Zealand vs India: Why India pacers struggled in Wellington

Jasprit Bumrah at Basin Reserve seemed a shadow of his former self. Added to that, Mohammed Shami too had had an ordinary Test.

The pace attack on view at the Basin Reserve, with the exception of Ishant Sharma, largely disappointed.

The pace attack on view at the Basin Reserve, with the exception of Ishant Sharma, largely disappointed.   -  AFP

India has a bunch of world class pacemen who have been slicing through line-ups both away and home in the last two years. 

And there is an intense competition for places. Not many teams would have someone of the quality of Umesh Yadav cooling the bench.

But the pace attack on view at the Basin Reserve, with the exception of Ishant Sharma, largely disappointed.

'Boom'rah no more?

Let’s take the case of Jasprit Bumrah. He was among the key factors in India’s maiden Test series triumph in Australia, last season. He had a whippy and deceptive action, was quick off the pitch, had a nasty short ball and a telling yorker.

Bumrah moved the new ball just enough to find the edge and when the ball became older, he struck with reverse swing. Strong, his pace seldom dropped below 140 kmph even at the fag end of the day, something that impressed pace legend Glenn McGrath.

Yet, the Bumrah at Wellington seemed a shadow of his former self, having spent a long period in the sidelines tending to a stress fracture of the lower back.

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He did not undergo surgery and coming back, he was drafted into the shorter formats straightaway. Except for the game at Mount Maunganui, where he scalped three, Bumrah had a laskustre Twenty20 series in New Zealand.

In the ODI series, too, he conceded 50 or more runs in each of the three games without picking a wicket. The alarm bells were ringing.

In the first Test, one got the impression that Bumrah was not letting it rip; perhaps the back injury was playing on his mind.

There were times when Bumrah appeared pedestrian. The explosive release with the arm-speed were not in view and the Kiwis were able to play him comfortably.

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Bumrah appeared down on speed and was not bowling the right length for the surface either. The seamer pitched short of a good length when he should have, ideally, pitched the ball up. By not drawing the batsman into a drive, Bumrah was not giving the ball a chance to swing.

Additionally, he was bowling on middle and off-stump when his line should have been off-stump or just outside it. In fact, it was this line that fetched Bumrah his only wicket of the Test when he had B.J. Watling caught behind.

This was a Test where even the Kiwi lower-order batsmen were able to pick his yorker - a major delivery in Bumrah’s arsenal - and dig it out. Bumrah was missing the extra speed that gave his bowling the cutting edge. 

And there was no reverse swing for him either. If someone such as Bumrah finishes with 1-88, then the Indian bowling has a problem.

Shami ordinary as well

Mohammed Shami had had an ordinary Test, too, given the high benchmark he has set for himself. Like Bumrah, he, carried away by the grass cover, bowled the wrong length for the track.

He too landed the ball short or short of a good length, and rarely pitched the ball up. Shami is a paceman who relies on the fluency of his run-up to generate speed. Then he uses his wrists and seam position for movement.

However, the strong wind at the stadium appeared to have adversely impacted the rhythm in Shami’s run-up and in turn his bowling.

India normally blows away the tail. In the first Test, the last three New Zealand wickets added 123 precious runs.

The pacemen have to get their act right at Christchurch. 

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