Former India pacer Praveen Kumar believes that the Indian batsmen have been found struggling against quality swing bowling because they have got used to playing on flat wickets.
India were bowled out for 92, their seventh lowest total in one-day cricket, in the eight-wicket loss to New Zealand in the fourth ODI in Hamilton on Thursday. Trent Bout emerged as the wrecker-in-chief, finishing with 5 for 21 with an outstanding spell of swing bowling.
“It happens mainly because we have been playing regularly on flat wickets. Batsmen have got used to that footwork and are not able to move their feet accordingly when the ball starts swinging. This I feel is the biggest reason why we have struggled to adjust to swing, be it in England or in New Zealand. The batters simply panic,” Praveen Kumar, one of the finest exponents of swing bowling in Indian cricket, told India Today in an interview.
However, PK, as Praveen is known in the cricketing circles, hopes Hamilton loss is a one-off and should not be a huge reason to worry about ahead of the World Cup in England, where the ball may swing similarly.
“As we have normally seen, flat wickets are given in multi-nation tournaments. This is done so that games are high scoring and crowds enjoy the maximum. This problem of swing bowling is being faced by batsmen the world over. It is not that just we are struggling. It is always difficult to bat whenever the ball swings. We have made huge scores in ODIs and there will be a one-off instance when we are bowled out cheaply too. It happens perhaps once in 100 games so we don’t have to think much about it and have to move ahead.”
As far as the bowling unit is concerned, the former speedster from Meerut thinks India have the best attack going into the quadrennial tournament.
“See, be it Bhuvneshwar [Kumar], [Mohammed] Shami, Kuldeep [Yadav], [Yuzvendra) Chahal or anyone else, all of our pacers and spinners are doing well. They all have their own unique style which gives us a huge advantage. We have a leg-spinner and a chinaman too. Bhuvneshwar Kumar is bowling well with the new ball and we are doing good in the death [overs] too. IPL has made a huge difference, bowlers know how to bowl safe or to take wickets without getting smacked all over the park. Our players have benefitted a lot from IPL, especially in the ODIs and T20 format. Shami and Ishant are bowling so well in the Tests too. So, the combination is quite good right now. They are of the same age-group and are physically strong too. The coach is working hard on them and I think this is certainly one of the best bowling units we have had. It is the best for the World Cup. You have three fast bowlers, plus Hardik Pandya and also two world class spinners. I don’t think we will face any problem if we choose amongst them. They just have to remain fit.”
One India pacer, Jasprit Bumrah, currently rested from the tour of New Zealand, may have a big role to play if India are to win the World Cup for the third time.
“Bumrah’s action is very special and if you see an arc is formed while he delivers the ball like a catapult moves forward with a huge force when pulled back. His style and that of Shoaib Akhtar or RP Singh is the same. That is the main reason they are able to generate so much pace. His action is such that the slower one is also not easy to guess for a batsman. Also, whether it is practicing to bowl yorkers by putting a shoe, he works very hard in the nets. Consistency is a result of hard work done in the nets. I believe that a bowler should always try to do those things in the nets which one has not mastered yet,” said Kumar.
He also believes that Bhuvneshwar Kumar has learnt the art of being economical in the shorter format even if the conditions are not suitable for his style of swing bowling.
“I think Bhuvi has learnt now how to escape if the ball isn’t swinging much, of how to be not much expensive and return with figures of perhaps 1/40 from his 10 overs in ODIs. He knows now how to do this perfectly.”