India’s bowling strategy in T20s

Indian bowling's tendency to heavily rely on spin may cost it later in the T20 World Cup . There is an urgent need to fortify the pace attack for better results in future. Read the article to know more about the positives and negatives in India's bowling in T20s.

India's principal form of attack in the bowling department has been spin, ever since cricket became known in our country. Be it limited overs' cricket or the longer format, spin remains the forte of Indian bowling and Indian captains, over the years, have resorted to spin bowlers at times of serious trouble. This national obsession with spin bowling has both benefitted and handicapped Indian cricket – Indians, often, fail miserably on bouncy tracks abroad and have never been able to adjust to bowling on green tops that are prepared in the remote lands of Australia, West Indies, New Zealand and England; on the other hand the over emphasis on spin bowling turns out to be marvellously beneficial on the slow and low sub-continental tracks. India's fortunes in the gentleman's game, over the years, have thus been shaped primarily by its ability to use its spin bowlers 'effectively'; and it is no different in the ongoing T20 World Cup. India's campaign in the group stage is now over, and they have successfully emerged as group leaders, thanks to the astonishing bowling spells from Ravichandran Ashwin , Harbhajan Singh and Piyush Chawla . The next stage, though, has been the bone of contention in all of India's T20 World Cup outings till date; and, it is for this purpose that M.S.Dhoni and his think-tank need to chalk out a decisive and ready-to-use plan to sharpen India's bowling department. There are a few questions that ought to be answered in order to prepare a foolproof plan.

Should the team management continue to place more importance on spin , or should the pace attack be simultaneously nurtured and sharpened?

As mentioned before, spin has been the mainstay of Indian bowling, even in the shortest format of the game! Initially, during the successfully forays of the T20 format into international cricket, spin bowling was not much in use in its context. Things, however, evolved gradually and spinners slowly sealed a new-found place in T20 sides. They started making visible impact in T20s once they discovered the art of manoeuvring the line and length of deliveries, in accordance with the situation in the game. Out of all the prominent cricket playing nations, India extracted the most out of this new-found spin wizardry in T20 cricket. A different brand of spinners, with Ashwin , Pragyan Ojha and a refashioned Harbhajan in the vanguard now led the Indian bowling attack in T20s . The pace department , sadly , continued to slide further in cold neglect – the likes of R.P.Singh , Sreesanth and Ashish Nehra slowly faded into oblivion as the spinners gained greater importance in the T20 side. In the ongoing World Cup, India's headaches once again are primarily due to untenable performances of the pacers- Zaheer has been a total disappointment so far, Irfan has been good in patches and Balaji has failed to repeat the magic that he created in IPL 2012. It is in the light of such woeful performances by the pacers that the team management needs to rethink the bowling strategy to be used in the upcoming games. Placing too much undue emphasis on spin may eventually lead to serious imbalance in the bowling attack – while spinners may take wickets and thwart the opposition's run rate , pacers may splash cold water on all that good work and this is exactly what happened when India was vanquished by Pakistan in a warm-up match earlier in the lead-up to the tournament! India, thus, needs to urgently ensure that the delicate balance between spin and pace is maintained without any fuss; the focus should be laid on simultaneous existence and prosperity of pace and spin.

Should we prefer pace to spin at the start and at the death?

T20 is no longer the same kind of slap-bang cricket that it was in its infancy, neither is it solely the batsman's game. It is the bowlers, nowadays, who make the difference between good and bad teams. Bowling strategies, thus, acquire special importance in T20s and the two main aspects of such strategies are the opening and death bowling. India's strategy has been successful at times and has failed badly in many occasions. Due to lack of specialist opening fast bowlers, M.S.Dhoni has often been forced to use spinners like Ashwin and Harbhajan as opening bowlers to tame the bombastic openers that most teams now use in the batting department. On good days, spinners strike gold and the pacers fill up the rest of the overs, playing second fiddle to the spinners. On days when the spinners get slogged from the very outset, the captain has rarely found an alternative wicket taker in his pacers and these are the days that are most likely to haunt the Indians if the pacers are not taught to value their place in the T20 side. A different problem, with an entirely different genesis, is the Indian death bowling in T20s. There have been countless occasions when Indian bowlers have squandered away tight situations in the death overs to let the opposition batsmen run amok. The glaring ineptitude of Indian pacers in bowling good Yorkers and full-length deliveries has resulted in the team management frantically searching for 'death overs' specialists' in the team. Epithets like that are short-lived, for one cannot really distinguish fast bowlers on the premise of the time in the match in which they are to bowl! The spinners are of little help in this regard, for, by the time the death overs arrive they have either finished their allotted quota of overs or are treated with disdain by the opposition batsmen once they get used to their variations and tricks used in the earlier overs. There are several instances of India losing T20 matches simply because of overusing spinners, even in the dying stages of the game. Fast bowlers, thus , need to be groomed properly to suit various purposes in the shortest format of the game .

India, thus needs to prepare a compact battalion of fast bowlers, especially trained to bowl fast, and armed with the ability to make subtle variations in line and length. If the spinners can evolve in the course of time to perform so well in T20s, why can't the quickies? Rookies like Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron and Ishant Sharma should ideally be the trained as the trendsetters in T20 bowling, for our country.


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