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Sight Screen

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Waste not want not

While picking up gifts for my neices shortly before my India trip this Feb, I remember coming across an 'activity book', that showed kids how to have fun with everyday items that are seen as junk. Like, for instance, they had this whole segment on how to make interesting sculptures with old tubes of toothpaste.
Am tempted to buy a few copies of that, and pass it around -- to the cricket media, which appears to have less patience than my sister shows during the school holidays. Was browsing Rediff just now, and came on this piece -- Ashish Shukla, for PTI -- that prima facie seems to argue that it is time to jettison the four seamers we have, and bring in fresh blood.
Nothing wrong with bringing in talented, fresh youngsters; nothing wrong with the names mentioned here as possibles -- RP Singh and Munaf have been knocking at the door long enough to get callouses, Ranadeb is being talked of as an up and comer; nothing wrong, even, in dropping players who are not able to deliver.
But surely there is one in-between step? To wit, analyzing why a bowler who looked capable (Zaheer, whenever he has been fit; Balaji, as lately as Australia and Pakistan; Pathan, again Australia and Pakistan; Ashish, again whenever fitness permitted) has not been delivering?
It's a funny world -- we argue with heat over why Saurav should play despite having had an off season, and argue with equal heat why Pathan, Balaji, Kaif, Yuvraj et al must be dropped because they had an off season.
There are interesting elements in this article; equally, there are some daft bits. For instance, what's with this?
Bowlers have been told the different lengths which are required to bowl on the off, middle or leg-stump.
On the off-stump, for example, it needs to be pitched up at 65:35 ratio. Middle stump line is to be desisted if a particular batsman is inclined to make room towards leg-stump. A leg-stump line is considered bad line as batsmen are least uncomfortable in this region.

Duh! You don't tell bowlers to pitch a line per a pre-programmed ratio -- that, to my mind, is the reporter's masala. Wicket conditions, and batsmen, dictate lines and lengths -- by way of for instance, I would think any halfway decent coach would tell his bowlers, when bowling to Jayasuriya, to go a touch wide on the stumps, keep the length as full as possible, and angle in from wide of the stumps into the off stump -- the best line for SJ, given it cuts out his pick up shots off the pads, his cuts through and over slips and point, and his slashing drives in front of point.
Or if it is a right armer staying over the wicket, to pitch the three quarter length around or just outside off, and as far as possible, straighten it or bring it back in -- again, because it is hard to control the hit onto the onside if you bowl that line; it cramps you on the cut/slash, and you can't drive with any authority. And no 65:35 about it either.
Another point I found going ummmm over is this:
Steve Harmison and Glenn McGrath have been cited as two prime examples of what tall bowlers with extra zip and bounce can do to a batting line-up. None of the present Indian fast bowlers could be said to possess such ability.
Indian fast bowlers have traditionally been skiddy, swinging and seaming type of trundlers. Express pace is not their forte, nor the ability to bounce batsmen their strong point.

Harmison, not so long ago, was being derided as having a suspect temperament -- go after him, the theory went, and he will fold. Now, on the basis of *one* good outing on a helpful pitch, he is the natural lead in follow-the-leader? Whereas an Irfan Pathan, who time and again beguiled Aussie and Pak batsmen with his movement both ways off the seam and -- ah, the shortness of memory -- his very clever use of the short ball, is already a has been?
Mercifully, professional coaches and support staff appear to have their heads screwed on straight.
Chappell in order to gain support in his mission, asked Dennis Lillee to come over to the camp and has brought over his old associate Ian Frazer to Sri Lanka to help out the fast bowlers.
Frazer has gone about giving individual attention to bowlers. Pathan was discovered to be not taking his front foot across at the point of delivery which affected his ability to bowl inswinging deliveries.
After working with Frazer for 45 minutes, he was seen bowling from a shorter run-up and trying to bring his front foot as much across as possible at the point of delivery.

Which is the point I was making -- when a player (batsman, bowler, whatever) with proven ability falls away, there's something going wrong. The first step is not to look for the spare tyre, but to figure out what the 'wrong' is -- and find remedial measures. Perfect case in point? Remember the stories linked to yesterday, about Terry Jenner's interaction with Shane Warne? One bloke who knew what leg spin is about, spending two hours with a bowler who presumably knows a fair bit himself but couldn't spot the little problem he had picked up, and magic results. (And then of course there are the bowlers who will never, despite the best of coaching, be anything more than honest trundlers -- but it's a touch too soon to stick that label on this quartet, surely?)
Oh, and talking of magic... lovely piece by Rohit Brijnath on Shane Warne (thanks, guys, for pointing to the link).
PS: Off to work


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