It seems a long time ago that we wrote about India’s young fast bowlers, nodding sagely and approvingly at what was on offer. That’s because it actually was a long time ago and the 26-and-under promise we saw four years ago should be something rather more than that by now.
In fact, it’s gone the other way. All those quicks have faded to some degree – some alarmingly so. Injuries take their toll, but there’s something astonishingly inevitable about premature Indian seam bowling decline. As often as not, it goes hand-in-hand with a loss of pace.
Why does this happen?
We remember watching Dale Steyn storming in for four overs when we were in Bangalore. In those conditions, it seemed an extraordinary amount of effort to put in for what seemed likely to be no reward. This was at night.
But it can’t be that which slows India’s bowlers, surely? Firstly, how would they have come to bowl quickly in the first place? Secondly, it’s their bloody job.
Success for Indian cricketers
Being a successful Indian cricketer isn’t like being a successful cricketer in other countries. You actually notice a difference. Where Jacques Kallis advertises shovels, even relatively middling players like Sreesanth and Virat Kohli appear in Nike adverts in India. By one definition, they’ve succeeded. Financially, they’re set for life.
Fast bowling is the most physically demanding role in cricket. You need to be fitter than everyone else in the side. Batsmen and spin bowlers can carry a bit more weight and lose a bit of muscle mass without too great an effect. A fast bowler who goes to seed even slightly will see the effect on their speed gun readings – particularly in their third spell.
We’re not saying that this is the problem with India’s bowlers, but nor would we be surprised if it were. Small changes in attitude can make a surprisingly large amount of difference. A comfort zone doesn’t need to involve comfort eating for a professional sportsman’s body to deteriorate a touch and that change can be significant when you’re dealing in the small margins involved in elite sport.