How are you supposed to win a test match if your bowlers can’t get through the last 3-4 wickets without conceding more than 120 runs?
The answer is you can’t.
The reason why India hasn’t won many matches abroad lies in the fact that it has allowed the opposition tail to wag, be it the disastrous series in England or the unsuccessful tours of South Africa and New Zealand with the current tour of Australia providing the latest instance when Indian bowlers fluffed their lines again to allow Aussies who were down at 247-6 to post 505. The crucial 100 run lead which should have been India’s was dropped in the arms of Australia who are now in the driver’s seat in the second test at Gabba.
True that the tail-enders of today are no pushovers with many seen honing their skills with the bat in the nets and some even average in mid 20s and 30s with the likes of Stuart Broad and Mitchell Johnson being good examples. But still they are inconsistent sloggers who bat with the confidence of a Sehwag or Warner against Indians.
So what seems to be the reason for this? Lets do a detailed study.
NO BOWLER WHO CAN WIPE-OUT TAIL
The necessity conditions for a whipe out of the tail is
1) An outright quickie who can deliver chin music or toe crushing deliveries.
2) A classic reverse swing bowler, or
3) A freak spinner (read Warne and Murali)
India never fulfilled one condition fully forget all three and that’s why the team faces similar difficulty in cleaning up the tail once every now and then.
Zaheer Khan in his prime used to get through the tail being the master of reverse swing and Harbhajan Singh powered by the famed doosra was too good for a tailender.
But now, Indian bowlers seem to lack that extra sting that can cause a batting collapse in the end.
Lets take a close look at the Indian bowling line-up comprising of Ishant Sharma, Varun Aaron, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Karn Sharma.
The good news is that finally India have bowlers who can actually bowl quicker than their opposition bowlers. But what is the use of power which cannot be controlled. Neither the quickies can bowl well directed bouncers frequently nor toe-crushing yorkers, so they possess no immediate threat to a tailender who are becoming smarter day by day.
Mohammed Shami is the only exponent of reverse swing but his impressive art is visible only for 3-4 overs in a day while he is conceding runs at more than 5 runs per over most of the time.
Ishant Sharma always play a supporting role in the team who holds one end while the wicket takers do their job from the other. Bhuvneshwar Kumar becomes useless with the old ball which the tail-enders face mostly and his best chance occurs in 80th over when new ball is taken.
If the captain is going to spinners outside the subcontinent conditions then he either has to be big turner of the ball or be smart with variations. The current lot lacks both.
But wicket-taking art is not restricted to bowlers only, a smart leader can get through the mighty knights with his tactical acumen while the tailenders are mere pawns. Tailenders are not great thinkers. They deal with the ball as it is delivered to it, not trying to think what’s the next ball going to be or what is the intention of a particular field setup. A common example is bowling 2-3 bouncers to the batsman to force him on the backfoot then surprise him with a fuller one. But the current Indian camp is unimaginative and only goes in one direction- either bowl fuller or bouncers as they did with Johnson when he came to the crease trying to bounce him out but when he countered Dhoni, he persisted with the plan as there was no plan B.
When Indian bowlers get through the the first 5 batsmen, they let the intensity drop thinking the tail-enders will eventually fall with time while the idea should be to finish the job at hand as quickly as possible.
The solution to the tailender problem will still take time as the current crop is inexperienced. But when the likes of Aarons and Umeshs have learnt to deliver the head bashers and Shamis the consistent reverse swinging snorters, India will break the code of victory on foreign shores. And the time is near, and might come in this series as the team of ES predicts.