Contrasting styles, same goal

S. DINAKAR

Shane Bond (left) and Darryl Tuffey.-N. BALAJI

THEIR bowling makes for an odd pairing. The much bigger built Darryl Tuffey actually sends them down much slower than the smaller Shane Bond, who can be quick.

Well, Bond is your hostile paceman, who would hustle the batsmen with his speed and bounce. In other words, he can soften up the enemy.

And Tuffey is quite the perfect partner for Bond, at least in New Zealand conditions, pitching the ball in the right spot and reaping the rewards. ``He is express, I move the ball,'' says Tuffey and he put his point across very well. Their contrast in styles makes them a potent new ball combination.

The two bowled to their strengths as the Indians were brushed aside 2-0 in the Test series, the reputation of several star batsmen taking a beating.

The pitches at Wellington and Hamilton, more so, had plenty of juice in them for the pacemen and Bond and Tuffey, well backed up by the tall Jacob Oram, dismissed India for scores of 161, 121, 99 and 154 in the Test series. It was a demolition job that was complete.

New Zealand certainly stumbled on the right combination for the conditions. The slip cordon was in place, so were the gullys, and the edges flew thick and fast. It was happy hunting for Tuffey and Bond. Oram had his fill as well.

During the series, Tuffey and Bond unleashed several memorable deliveries that might have consumed most batsmen. Bond's wicked short-pitched thunderbolt to V.V.S. Laxman in Wellington was a truly mean ball, while his spectacular inswinging yorker to Rahul Dravid at the same venue had only one destination — the stumps.

Tuffey squared up Sanjay Bangar in the first Test with a delivery that lifted and seamed away from the batsman, while in Hamilton, he produced quite the most perfectly pitched leg-cutter, the one landing on the middle and off and leaving the right-hander, forcing the batsman to play and nick. It fetched a big scalp too — Rahul Dravid's.

Tuffey has a wonderful record in New Zealand, and it was he who ambushed the Pakistanis in Hamilton, and then played a huge role as New Zealand levelled the Test series against England last year.

As we saw during the recent Test series, Tuffey is not the quickest of bowlers around. But he doesn't waste much time before hitting the right length, and gives very little away.

The pressure builds up on the batsmen before he slices them up. His opening spell in Hamilton, where he conceded his first run in only his seventh over, picking up two wickets during that period, is a fine illustration of this point.

In all, Tuffey bagged 13 wickets in the series, five in the first Test and eight in the second, and posed searching questions to the Indian batsmen with his persistent off-stump line, bounce and movement. In the `corridor of uncertainty,' he really probed them.

His initial burst in Wellington, when he had the harder job of operating against a stiff wind, was no less different. Figures of 4-3-2-2 tell their own story. On seaming wickets, playing away from the body, or attempting to drive or push the delivery without using their feet would spell doom for the batsmen against Tuffey.

The conditions might have been ideal for seam bowling. Still, in Tuffey, New Zealand had the ideal customer to exploit them. He is a big, strong bowler, who can keep chipping away at the batsmen, at around 128 to 130 kmph.

However, Tuffey has struggled to be among the wickets outside home and it is here that he needs to believe more in his ability. With Sir Richard Hadlee as the chairman of the selectors, motivation should not be that much of a problem for Tuffey, and the coming days could see him develop into a fully rounded medium pacer.

In pre-Christmas New Zealand pitches, that have a lot in them for the seamers, Tuffey's height enables him to gain natural bounce, but on less responsive surfaces, he does need to hit the deck harder. He has the physical strength to do this on a consistent basis and this is where self-belief comes in.

Of all the New Zealand pacemen, Tuffey operates at the most ideal length for the home conditions. He lands them at around three quarters length, and then pitches the odd one up, seaming it away, and catching the batsmen, rooted to the crease, napping.

The 24-year-old Northern Districts paceman had a whopping 21 wickets in his last three Tests in New Zealand, going into Hamilton, and there he added eight more to his tally. Deservedly, he was the Man of the Match.

Ever since he burst on the international scene during the Carlton and United series against Australia last season, Bond has been quite the biggest factor in the Kiwi attack.

For long, New Zealand had a hard-working bunch of pacemen, such as Simon Doull, Chris Cairns and Dion Nash, but none who could blow away the opposition. The Kiwis required someone who would be the sword arm, don the mantle of a spearhead. It required a bowler with speed. Bond was the man.

It was easy to see Bond's value to the side in the Test series against India. He was the one who pushed the batsmen on to their backfoot, pegged them back psychologically.

Bond rapped the batsmen on the knuckles, made them weave and fend, and provided the cutting edge to the attack.

His is an interesting career. Bond, now 27, is certainly a late developer, who struggled with injuries and action in the early phase of his career that held promise, though the returns were not so encouraging.

However, someone who mattered a lot to New Zealand cricket took an interest in Bond, and it was here that the paceman's career took a different route. Hadlee saw the match-winning qualities in Bond, and the rest is history.

The Canterbury pacemen took wing really in the demanding Carlton and United series in Australia, rocking the Australian batsmen with his pace, bounce and deadly reverse swinging yorkers. Undeterred by the reputation of Adam Gilchrist & Co., he made the early inroads, struck during the later stages of the innings, and, not surprisingly, emerged the Man of the Series.

Bond was troubled by a back injury subsequently, but was quite the star performer for the Kiwis in the Caribbean, as New Zealand scored its first Test series victory in the West Indies.

On the West Indian pitches, that are no longer paceman-friendly, he bent his back, generated pace, extracted bounce, and provided the Kiwi attack that much-needed firepower. Hadlee, who surely knows a thing or two about pace bowling, had picked the right man.

And like the famous speed merchants, Bond loves going after the big scalps — he castled both Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid in Wellington, and they really don't come bigger than that.

As pacemen, Tuffey and Bond may have different methods, but they had a single goal against India. And this meant trouble for Sourav Ganguly and his men.