Absurd way to protect Shami
With due respect to workload management and modern methods of coaching, the 15-overs-an-innings limit for the pacer appeared odd
India fast bowler Mohammed Shami was recently told by the BCCI that he had to restrict his participation in a Ranji Trophy game for Bengal to 15 overs per innings against Kerala. I wonder how fast bowling gurus the world over would react to that. With due respect to workload management and modern methods of coaching, this appeared bizarre. Sure, a fast bowler cannot be used as a workhorse by his state captain especially before a major tour of Australia, but to grant your fast bowler permission to play domestic cricket with a rider was preposterous.
Thankfully, the cricketer knew what's best for him and bowled more than 20 overs in Bengal's first innings — 26, to be precise, for three wickets. He sent down another three in the second innings. "The more you bowl here, the more it will help in Australia. It was good preparation. For me, bowling in a match is the best preparation. I prefer that any day," Shami said at the Eden Gardens. The advancement in fitness modules must be welcomed and respected. We all marvel at the supreme athleticism modern-day cricketers display, a far cry to what we used to see on our black-and-white television sets, which often showed us images of sloppy fielding and tardy chases to the boundary.
Coming back to fast bowlers. There have been cases in history of pacers being subjected to a huge amount of work. I was on India's 2011 tour of England where Praveen Kumar bowled 60.3 overs in the Lord's Test, where Zaheer Khan broke down with a hamstring injury on Day One itself. His only reward was an inscription on the Lord's honours board for his five for 106 in England's first innings. He bowled another 58 overs in the second Test at Trent Bridge and 40 in one innings during the next game at Birmingham. It was there that he sustained an ankle injury and was ruled out for the next Test, which caused the recall of RP Singh. Those were the last three Tests Praveen played in his six-Test career. Like Shami, he was a swing exponent.
Among the workhorses, there is also the late Ramakant Desai, who pundits reckoned was put through the wringer on the 1959 tour of England, where India were led by DK Gaekwad. He bowled 189.4 overs in the Test series for his 12 wickets and 411 overs in the tour games. Historians say Desai got burnt out in the 1960s, but local cricket followers also point to his workload, caused by bowling relentlessly in domestic competitions, apart from club and inter-office cricket.
Fred Trueman, the great English fast bowler, could also bowl for hours and he had his own methods of training. Anyone advising him on fast bowling would do so with trepidation. For, Trueman would challenge their interference by not only reeling off statistics of his own, but also asking them where they stand in the top wicket-takers column in comparison to him. "Can't tell you youngsters anything," some experts would tell him, and Trueman would shoot back: "That's not true, but you certainly can't tell me anything about fast bowling."
Before embarking on the 1962-63 tour of Australia, England captain Ted Dexter roped in British long-distance Olympic runner Gordon Pirie to train his team. Pirie, who had participated in the 1956 and 1960 Olympics, felt Trueman should be put on a diet of nuts and lettuce. He also advised the fast bowlers to run on the wooden decks of the ship. Trueman refused to do so in the fear of hurting his knees.
When the Yorkshiremen found things getting unpleasant, he approached Pirie and asked him whether he competed against someone called Vladimir Kuts from Russia. Pirie certainly did, and said so, to which Trueman replied: "If I remember rightly he was doing his lap of honour (after clinching 10,000m gold at Melbourne) before you crossed the finish line, so if that's what your training does for you, then you can count me out."
Andy Roberts is among the many former greats who cringe when they hear about fast bowlers spending too much time in the gym rather than on the field. He bowled in an era where there was less of lifting weights and more net sessions, climbing stairs, running on sand and swimming. At the moment though, Shami has India's bowling coach Bharat Arun to turn to. His wicket tally in Australia is not poor, but not all 15 scalps in the 2014-15 Border-Gavaskar Trophy series were the result of some brilliant bowling. Ricky Ponting has named him among the three quicks India ought to pick for next Thursday's Adelaide Test and feels his reverse swing could be handy. Shami will hope to make the cut and perform well enough to last more than 15 overs.
mid-day's group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello Send your feedback to email@example.com
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