Top 3 potential part-time bowling options for India?

In Indian cricket, there has been a history where at least three out of the top five batsmen have been known as genuine part-time bowlers. Especially in One Day cricket, the value of a part-time bowler automatically increases. Fans can recall the bowling actions of some of their favorite batsmen like Saurav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Suresh Raina, etc. who were quite handy with the ball.

But how many of the fans can recall the last time they saw some of the current players bowl like Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, or Suryakumar Yadav? The answer is almost very rare. This has been a major area of concern for the Indian team in One Day Internationals as the number of part-time bowling options has diminished over the past few years.

What could be the possible reasons?

  • The moment ICC changed the rule to having one new ball from each end, effectively at the end of 50 overs there would be two balls of 25 overs old from each end. Therefore, the bowler, especially a part-time bowler will have to learn to bowl with a much newer ball in the 35th or 36th over for example compared to the situation back in 2011.
  • With the rules in place being changed, as only four fielders are being outside from overs 11-40, even full-time regular spinners are having an issue. The moment they drop it a bit too full in length or a bit too short in length, they get hit for a boundary. The margin of error is reduced considerably after this rule change.
  • To add to that, a huge amount of T20 cricket is being played. In this format of the game, bowling a part-timer has become nullified in the last 6-7 years. There is not one over in T20 cricket where a captain could use a part-timer as batsmen are looking to take the bowler on continuously. Hence, the whole concept of part-time bowlers is slowly disappearing.

Former fielding coach for India R Sridhar explained the drop in his book Coaching Beyond: My Days With The Indian Cricket Team“One of the key reasons for that is our coaching system. We currently have three specialized throwdown specialists on the Indian squad, as we have for a while, and we often receive four nets”

  • R Sridhar further mentioned that the Indian team usually gets four nets. In two of the nets, the batsmen face the bowlers for about 20-25 minutes. After the session, most of the batters want more batting for which they turn to the remaining two nets where they face the side-arm specialists also known as the slingers. Sridhar added that in the post-slinger era, the batsmen of the team were bound to bowl to their teammates which sharpened their skills with the ball and made them vital part-time bowling options.

Possible bowling options ahead of WC 

Can any of India’s top order batsmen roll their arms over? (Image courtesy- Time Now)
  • Rohit Sharma- The Indian captain did a pretty decent job as a part-time bowler during the early days of his career. He used to bowl some handy off-spins and also has IPL Hatrick to his name. He has a total of eight wickets in One Day cricket. But since 2016, he has not bowled at all owing to an index finger injury in his right hand which is his prominent hand in both bowling and batting.
  • Virat Kohli- It was back in 2017 when Virat Kohli last ran in to bowl in a One Day match with his strangely stiff bowling action. Similar to Rohit, Virat too was used effectively to cover up in the bowling department. He has a total of four wickets in One Day cricket. But seems like owing to some back issues, Virat has called it time from bowling.
  • Shreyas Iyer- He is another specialist top-order batsman who has not fully utilized his bowling abilities. His leg-break bowling abilities have been quite crucial in the domestic circuit as he has a five-wicket haul to his name. But Iyer has yet to bowl more frequently in One-Day cricket and contribute towards the team in that aspect. 

Importance of part-time bowling options

If we rewind to the victorious ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 campaign, then captain MS Dhoni had plenty of handy part-time bowling options to look into. He had the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Yusuf Pathan, and Suresh Raina who made handy contributions with the ball in the middle overs that can be very crucial in a One Day match especially in spin-friendly conditions.

  • Part-time bowling options give the captain a cushion in case any of the main bowlers are having a bad day. A part-timer can then roll his arm over for a few overs to make up and also give an added bowling option to the captain.
  • It also helps to maintain the balance of the team. For example- India has to maintain a combination of five batters (including a wicketkeeper), four bowlers, and two all-rounders to maintain the balance of the team. If they replace one of the all-rounders with a batsman, then India will be left with just five bowling options. If any one of them is injured midway, then it may be very costly for them, especially in a World Cup.

Conclusion

With top batsmen in the likes of Glenn Phillips, Aiden Markram, Asalanka, Labuchagne, Livingstone, etc. bowling some crucial part-time for their respective teams, India should also develop or bring back the culture of part-timers. Having at least one or two part-time bowling options in the top 6 of the playing XI can be crucial in the team’s success, especially in One Day cricket.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.