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Sunil Gavaskar: The problem is too much gym work and very little net bowling 

The Indian Premier League has begun in full swing, and already, some things are getting obvious. This is a tournament whose motto is ‘Where talent meets opportunity’, and over the years, it has given Indian cricket some real top players.

While it is clearly early days yet, the first 10 days of the event where all teams have played at least two games each shows that unless there are some hidden gems yet to be unearthed, the fast bowling department, the opening batting and spin bowling sections are looking devoid of any exciting talent. Over the last few years, it has been noticeable that wherever there is a bit of bounce, the young Indian batters have struggled to cope with it. The T20 format restricts the fast bowler from using the short ball as he has to get it bang on target, otherwise it will be called a wide. That not only means an extra delivery to be bowled but also a run conceded to the opposition.

Even though the matches are played in the evening, the heat and humidity of April and May also means that bowling the bouncer can take a lot out of the bowler. Being aware of this, the batters tend to get on to the front foot, and when the ball is not pitched up, they find it tough to negotiate the one coming over the waist. The discomfort is palpable and that’s never a good sign if the batter aspires to play Test cricket where the field is also set to take catches and not just stop runs.

The other disappointing aspect that’s been seen so far is that batters are looking for the glory shots rather than playing smart cricket. That can work for a couple of deliveries at best but then the bowler wins most times in the end.

In the bowling department, too, there seems to be a dearth of talent. While it is understandable that the T20 format is very harsh on the bowlers, the lack of much planning and thought when the batter gets stuck into them is a concern. The spinners hardly ever change the pace at which they deliver and by bowling flatter they seem like medium pacers, which is exactly what the batters are looking for.

As for the pace bowling, while there appears to be a couple of potential fast medium pacers, the injury worry over them is not something that can be overlooked. Too much gym work and very little net bowling is the main problem. The bio-mechanics experts suggesting that bowlers should not bowl more than 20 deliveries in the net practice is baffling. In the match, a bowler has to bowl at least 24 deliveries and more if he oversteps or bowls wides. No wonder most Indian bowlers are going off the field with some injury or the other. There is no substitute for bowling in the nets since that is what you gotta do in the matches, too.

The repeat action of bowling in the nets ensures that when the bowlers get on the field, the body is used to doing the action. If earlier generation bowlers didn’t break down, it was simply because they bowled so much in the nets and when it came to bowling in a match their bodies were ready for it.

Not for a moment am I trying to be pessimistic about Indian cricket for there are still lots of top players around. It’s just that in the earlier seasons of the IPL, the first 10 days saw the emergence of a player or two that grabed the attention.

So far it hasn’t happened. But like I said it’s early in the season and we could yet see some players who will set the hearts racing and the Indian supporters believing that they are watching a player who is truly special.



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