India’s bowling attack is easily the most versatile in world cricket. The team possesses such a wide variety of pace and spin bowling options that it can virtually dial an attack to exploit the conditions prevailing in a particular match or series.
Wednesday’s win against Pakistan, which was set up by the bowlers, was a classic case of tailoring the attack to suit conditions. India had tested the pitch in the match against Hong Kong and this was fundamental in fine-tuning the attack for the critical match against Pakistan.
Unlike pitches in England, the Dubai pitch was horrendously slow, low and without a semblance of aiding lateral movement. In England, and even in South Africa earlier, when there was pace, bounce and movement available, India’s fast bowlers had gone to town.
Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav and Hardik Pandya had in their varying styles shown what a rich repertoire of fast bowlers India could summon at a moment’s notice.
Bhuvi, who had missed the Test series in England and seemed rusty against Hong Kong, was the kingpin of the attack against Pakistan. However, it was not just him. The experienced pacers knew what had to be done on a lifeless pitch and had the nous to pull it off.
Frankly, no team in the world currently enjoys such a wonderful mix of bowlers. Some countries, like Australia for instance, may have a better set of fast bowlers while others might even boast having a better bunch of spinners. But where India score over them all is in the capability to field the ideal bowling combination for differing conditions.
Of course, the team management might make a mistake in their choice of personnel or even in reading the pitch. But when all these factors are spot on, India certainly have the repertoire in the bowling arsenal to make any opposition’s task a challenging one.
Pakistan found this out very quickly in the Asia Cup match. Neither Bhuvi nor Bumrah gave them the width to throw bat at the ball. They bowled just short of length and got the batsmen to play all the time. The openers had the option to take their chances and go after the bowlers. Instead they got tied down. This was a crucial mistake and Pakistan paid for it in the middle overs when spinners made run-making tough and went on to disrupt the innings.
Actually, Pakistan were ambushed at a critical stage of the innings. To be fair to their coach and brain trust, they would have done their homework and planned for all the bowlers. But they certainly would not have factored in Kedar Jadhav. He was, literally the X-factor in the bowling attack.
Pakistan would never have imagined that Jadhav would be let loose at them for as long as nine overs. They were simply ill-prepared to handle him and his wares. He turned out to be a nightmare they could not fathom.
Jadhav, probably the shortest bowler in international cricket, buckles his knee, brings the bowling arm really down and round till the delivery point is well below even his normal height; which, incidentally, is short by any standards.
If this was not unusual, he compounded it by bowling at a snail’s pace. On pitches like the one at Dubai, his bowling ensured that the ball came at the batsmen so slow and so low that they needed the bat’s sweet spot to be at its toe!
Funnily, skipper Rohit Sharma at one stage deployed a slip for Jadhav’s bowling. Did he seriously expect the snick to carry to slips? Why, at times it seemed like his ball would not reach the wicketkeeper standing up!
Jadhav was a camouflaged secret weapon who blended superbly on the day with the slow wares of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal.
Jadhav’s analysis of 9-1-23-3 was so impressive that it confused even Pakistan commentator Rameez Raja. He asked Jadhav how seriously he was going to take his bowling. Of course, Jadhav replied that he was already very serious about it. But had Rameez not been confused, he would have put this question to the Pakistani batsmen, especially the three that Jadhav dismissed.
Maybe next time Pakistan would come better prepared to take on Jadhav and the other slow spinners. But there is little doubt that India have the wherewithal to field horses for courses. Indeed, for the first time in India’s cricketing history its strength lies is in the variety and potency of its bowling. The challenge now is to make it count.