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Win some, some more by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
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February 17, 2006
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Win some, some more

Medium fast - Not too fast... not too gentle either. True, the pace is not searing enough to run through an opposition of some repute, twice, in the course of a test match; True, the pace is not intimidating enough for the opposition to tremble in their boots and gift away their wickets out of fear; True, the beamers are virtually absent and the bouncers can be safely let away to the keeper. But that exactly is the difference between bowling in the longer version of the game and bowling in one dayers. One need not clock 160 kmph, one need not aim constantly at the rib cages, one need not bother about bowling short and one need not employ glares, stares and other intimadatory tactics. Within the 10 over span, make sure you stick to the off stump line and allow the opposition to follow its self destructing agenda. Bowling in one dayers is not complicated at all. If you cannot swing the ball, stick to the off stump line. If you cannot bowl the one bouncer allowed in an over, stick to the off stump line, if you cannot hurl the ball, stick to the off stump line. A simple mantra, yet, very potent and very dangerous. It makes all the difference between winning and losing a game. It makes all the difference between losing a series 5-0 and winning it 3-1, with a game still to spare.

History has shown India, first in 1983 and again in 1985, that it does not need a pace battery to ram the opposition hard, and subject them to adject surrender. When the West Indies were at their threatening best in 1983, the bowlers, each towering around 7 feet and capable of delivering thunderbolts from up the heavens, helped the team storm into the finals of the Prudential World Cup. And their opponents - a team of gentle warriors, at least in the bowling department - Kapil Dev, Sandhu, Madan Lal, Roger Binny, Kirti Azad and of course, the ever so nimble and lazy, Mohinder Amarnath. None had the menacing power of the Carribeans. None looked like they could trouble even a tail-ender, leave alone, the formidable front line-up. But Kapil's devils did not deliver the bad news in thunderbolts that terrified the batsmen or in bullets that whizzed past in the blink of an eye. They were pacy spinners at best. Yet, match after match, the story unravelled in pretty much the same way. Contain the opposition, by sticking to a line and following a plan, to a target that could easily be achieved by their bastmen, setup the team for a win, and just collect accolades at the end. Simple strategy yielding great results. The Indians were World Champions.

A couple of years later, this time it was Down Under, in 1985. Nothing has changed as far the team composition is concerned. The same 4 or 5 mainstream batsmen, the same 3-4 gentle bowlers and the same 1-2 all rounders. Again, they did not start as favorites. But the dream run till the finals had pretty much followed the 83 route as consistently as McGrath's line and length. Either get the opposition bowled out for a cheap score and achieve the target with enough to spare, or set a decent target for the bowlers to defend it and back up it with some tight fielding. It was indeed astonishing, how during these two tournament victories, India executed the same plan to perfection for some glorious results. If it has taught the team anything, it is the faith that has to be reposed in the 100-120 kmph deliveries that never leave the off stump, which seem to invariably sound death knell to the opposing batsmen. There is certainly a huge difference between winning a test with medium pace bowling and winning a one day with the same pace line up. While in tests, the bowlers have to force the wickets, try out different things to get the batsmen out, while in one dayers, the bowlers are rewarded more for their consistency.

Twenty years later, India was able to outscore Pakistan for a second consecutive team, by tweaking their minimal resources in the bowling department for an optimal throughput, in just the same way their predecessors did in '83 and '85 for satisfying results. Granted the same bowling has not been looked upon kindly a few days before when the test series concluded with not a favorable result, but it came through in flying colors, this time around, employing the same techniques and employing the same personnel. The reason is pretty simple - Tests are tilted in favor of the batsmen while one dayers veer towards the bowlers. With the World Cup just around the corner, it is important that the team management drill it into the bowlers' heads the fact, that at the end of the day, in a one day, a gentle pace with a probing line does more damage than a scorching pace with a wayward line. As the team is slowly adding to its armory, a stock of medium gentle pacers in RP Singhs, Reetinder Sodhis and VRV Singhs, to its existing stockpile of Pathans, Zaheers and Agarkars, nothing would serve as better lessons, about how less is more, than this important series victory now, that other in the same land three years ago, and a couple, that would serve as constant reminder to this lesson, in '83 and '85.

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