One of the arresting aspects of the fourth ODI between India and Windies was the manner in which two tall, young fast bowlers put India under the cosh with their judicious use of sharp short-pitched balls.
Alzarri Joseph, 20, one of the heroes of Windies' Under-19 World Cup triumph, showed why many superstars of yesteryears like Andy Roberts, Joel Garner, Australian Justin Langer et al believe he is the most exciting fast bowling talent to emerge in recent years.
Joseph, like many of the West Indian fast bowling greats of the past, was blooded at a very young age. In less than a year, since he made his debut at the age of 19, he has already played five Tests, 11 ODIs and three T20 Internationals.
On Sunday in Antigua he showed how fiery he could be by bowling an impressive first spell of seven overs. On a pitch not really to the liking of fast bowlers, he used the bouncer to good effect to rattle the top order.
Joseph has two variations of the bouncer: A conventional one and another which skids on to the batsman. He got Dinesh Karthik with one such delivery that caught the batsman napping. With luck he could have got Ajinkya Rahane too, but the attempted hook fell tantalisingly short of the fielder.
It was apparent in the previous ODI itself that the Windies did not want Virat Kohli to bat at his chosen pace. Kohli likes to eschew all risks at the start of his innings, preferring to get his eye in with deft placements and hard running. Barring the drive to over-pitched deliveries he hardly hits the ball till he gets well set. Of course, as his innings progresses he pulls out his wide repertoire of strokes.
The Windies ploy of peppering him with short-pitched deliveries at the start of his innings was to ensure that he did not get those singles and twos early on. This choked him and forced him to play a big shot earlier that he would have wanted to.
Kohli ducked and weaved out of the way for a few deliveries before he succumbed to the temptation of playing the hook shot against Jason Holder and skied a catch to the wicket-keeper. Karthik’s dismissal six overs later was almost a carbon copy.
It is obvious that the bouncer will be used liberally to keep the Indian batsmen pegged back. On big, wide outfields their hooking and pulling are not as effective and hence tall fast bowlers, like the Windies now have in Holder, Joseph and Miguel Cummins, will keep testing their hooking skills.
Sure, the bouncers aimed at the head are probably the easier ones to dispatch for batsmen. It’s the ones in line with their right shoulder or throat that are a source of maximum trouble.
Part of the problem for Indian batsmen is the excessive exposure to Indian Premier League-sized outfields. There, starting with Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma, the top Indian batsmen hardly hook the ball. They shuffle on to the back foot and help the ball on its way for a six over fine-leg or long-leg.
This ploy hardly works on conventional-sized grounds. They would be caught well within the boundary ropes there. Thus batsmen have to get back to the basics of the stroke by getting inside the line of the short-pitched delivery and rolling the wrist on the hook. However, having allowed superbly-crafted modern willows to dictate power batting for 10 years on ‘miniature-sized IPL boundaries’, Indian batsmen are coming face to face with another aspect of power batting that they seem ill-equipped to handle.
Additionally, barring the top-order batsmen, the others have not been exposed to batting under pressure. Considering the target was not all that big, Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja, not to mention Kuldeep Yadav, could have knuckled down and batted around an out-of-sorts Mahendra Singh Dhoni. But none of them looked like they could deliver the match for the side.
It was embarrassing to watch Kuldeep bat. He could not put bat to ball at a crucial stage of the innings and missed deliveries by wildly flaying at the ball.
It is obvious that the Indian top order is the key to success. Teams that have good, tall fast bowlers will go after them with well-directed short-pitched wares. On responsive pitches they could turn the batsmen inside-out, especially now that there are two new balls at the start of the innings.
The Windies with two fast bowlers — Holder (who ended with figures of 5 for 27) and Joseph (2 for 46) — showed how it could be done. Wonder what it would have been like if they had four and a pitch to go with it!
Updated Date: Jul 03, 2017 14:28 PM