Should strive for variety

PTI

Cricket is still a batsman’s game, which leaves no room for bowlers, who are one-dimensional. Variety is the name of the game as far as bowlers are concerned in the shorter formats.

The first T20 match in Dharamshala has set the tone for an exciting series between India and South Africa. The aggressive brand of cricket played by both sides was an indication of things to come. However, it has to be said that the South African bowlers got carried away and resorted to a single pronged tactic of pinging it in short. The view, that Indian batsmen are relatively less fluent against short-pitched bowling seemed to have driven the South African pacers to go all out and blast the batsmen out. The tactics can be an effective ploy in a duration game, but can backfire rather badly in limited-over formats.

One has to give a bit of allowance for the inexperience in the South African attack on view in Dharamshala, but the visitors have to realise that they need to bring variations to outsmart the batsmen. No doubt the South Africans will have the experience of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel in the ODIs, but the back-up bowlers need to hit the right length to be successful in any format. Most times, visiting pacers have been unable to decipher the right length to bowl on Indian pitches. Only the greats like Richard Hadlee, Wasim Akram (above) and Glenn McGrath, to name a few, were able to adjust the length on the sluggish tracks. Then, of course, they had the uncanny knack of making the ball seam to complement their pace.

The South African pacers have to realise that making the ball seam off the pitch is mandatory if they are to make an impact on Indian soil. It will be interesting to see whether the run feast in Dharamshala will make the pacers of both sides change their approach. While the South Africans were in pursuit of speed, the Indian seamers were looking for swing and seam. The swing element gets annulled once the sheen wears off, but the ability to make the ball deviate off the seam will be the clinching factor in India. As far as the limited-over formats are concerned, denying pace to the batsmen needs to be the primary objective, as the pitches are flat and therefore, highly conducive to stroke making.

It is definitely not fair to be judgmental after one T20 game, but the fact that yorkers or slower balls were never attempted, tells you a story. It is not easy to bring those out of the kit bag at will, unless one has a reasonable control, brought about by persistent effort in the nets.

The venues for the T20s and ODIs will be batsmen friendly and it is going to be hard work for the bowlers. Pace by itself will be helpful up to a point, but craft will be required to put the skids on the batsmen. The batsmen from both sides have made a bold statement in the opening encounter and now it is left to the bowlers to work out a formula to make it an even contest.

The additional fielder on the boundary will be of great help to the bowlers, but they will come into play only if the batsmen are forced to miscue their big shots. The miscued shots can be induced by subtle variation of pace, as constant speed will give the batsmen what they need. Given the enormous chunk of woods on bats these days, any decent impact will send the ball flying to or over the ropes. Cricket is still a batsman’s game, which leaves no room for bowlers, who are one-dimensional. Variety is the name of the game as far as bowlers are concerned in the shorter formats.