Indian bowlers yet to master the art of mixing deliveries: Aakash Chopa
The constant struggle to get yorkers right is a major cause of concern for Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men, writes Aakash Chopra
Two overs - 29 runs conceded. Mahendra Singh Dhoni had, quite reluctantly, gone back to his pace bowlers for the final 12 balls of the warm-up game against Sri Lanka. And by the end of those 12 balls, one could gauge the reason behind the skipper's reluctance. The same trend continued in the second warm-up game against England.
Coach Duncan Fletcher chats with MS Dhoni during a practice session yesterday. Pic/AFP
Indian fast bowlers bowled only 12 balls in the last five overs. Games before the tournament are good indicators of the team's strengths, weaknesses and options. India's weak and inexperienced fast bowling department isn't a secret, and both the games just reiterated that point.
Why does India leak so many runs in the death overs? — that's a key question. Is it because our bowlers don't bowl enough yorkers or they haven't mastered the art of mixing the deliveries?
Since India doesn't play enough International T20s, I'm taking into account India's death bowling woes in the ODIs too. Bowling in the final four overs of a T20 game is quite similar to bowling in the last 10 of an ODI, and we've been found wanting in both.
When you talk about bowling in the death overs, there are only three lengths that you can bowl — yorker, bouncer and a back of good length ball that rises sharply and hits the higher part of the bat. Anything other than these three lengths is likely to be carted around with ease.
You may like to vary the pace every now and then too, but bowling a half volley or a good length ball is simply blasphemous, even when you take the pace off.
Where to bowl?
So, where do the Indian bowlers bowl? Don't they bowl enough in the block hole? In fact, they find that spot more often than their counterparts.
On the tours to South Africa and New Zealand, Indian bowlers bowled a total of 48 yorkers in the eight ODIs as opposed to 22 from Kiwis and South African bowlers in the same number of matches. Incidentally, it's not the yorkers that are going for plenty, but the balls before and after a perfect yorker.
Yorker is a tough ball to bowl and requires a lot of accuracy and body strength. While the former can be achieved by practice, the latter is something that you build over a period of time. But, bowling a yorker, or rather not bowling a yorker, hasn't been India's bane but the constant struggle to get it right has.
Since Indian bowlers don't have a fast bouncer like Dale Steyn or Mitchell Johnson, they stay away from it and since they don't get extra bounce like Morne Morkel, even the back of length ball isn't an option either.
That leaves our bowlers with the option of only one ball, which is the most difficult ball to execute. The pressure to find the block hole every time takes its toll and they end up missing the mark more than they would prefer. The other major problem of bowling a yorker is that the margin of error is too little, for a bad yorker turns out to be the easier ball to hit.
Half volleys galore
While Indian bowlers may have bowled a lot of yorkers, they've also dished out most number of half volleys and full tosses while attempting the yorkers. In addition to that, most batsmen around the world have found a way to score against the yorkers too.
Most go deep into the crease, which makes even a low full toss ineffective and others, the more adventurous ones, bend their knee to play the lap shot. Yorker has lost a little bit of sting off late, most definitely the ones that aren't reasonably quick or the ones that reverse swing.
India's best chances, however radical it may sound, lie in playing three spinners and asking one or two of them to bowl in the backend of the T20 innings. India must also dearly hope that the ball continues to grip the surface and turn in Mirpur, for Indian pacers simple can't be trusted with the job of bowling the final four overs in the World T20.