Six-Fest in Bangalore Highlights India and Australia Bowling Ineptitude
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After India's second incredible chase of the series in Nagpur on Wednesday, which saw the home side comfortably overcome Australia's, 350-6, MS Dhoni summed up the feelings of his bowlers who suffered yet another hammering from their opponents.
"A few of the bowlers are disappointed, they actually feel it will be better off to put a bowling machine there," Dhoni said, according to ESPN Cricinfo.
On Saturday in Bangalore, it appeared that the bowlers from both sides obliged, replacing themselves with the very machines the Indian captain was referring to.
Run in, length ball, fetch it from the crowd, repeat.
The regularity of the ball sailing into the stands in an identical manner made it impossible to believe that living and intelligent men were sending down such predictable and toothless tripe. That must have been the work of Dhoni's machines, surely.
Any thoughtful cricketer, or any conscious creature full stop, would have surely realised that placing the ball halfway down the pitch time and time again was not the way forward, particularly on a good wicket in a tiny ground with swashbuckling batsmen wielding their axes like executioners.
No, that must have been machines.
Satirical references aside, it's difficult to take complaints from bowlers regarding recent rule changes seriously, when they're prepared to serve up the sort of performance witnessed in Bangalore on Saturday.
Certainly, the changes to restrictions on men outside the circle would have only altered this match if that circle was previously defined as the boundary rope. Whether a captain is allowed four men on the fence, or five, is of little consequence if the crowd spends more time catching the ball than the 11 men on the field.
Rohit Sharma's record-breaking 209 will be long remembered in world cricket, but so too will the miserable deliveries that he relentlessly bashed over the fence. With the Indian opener throwing not only the kitchen sink but the whole house also at each and every delivery, it was alarming to watch Australia's bowlers repeatedly feed the right-hander exactly what he wanted.
Clint McKay, Nathan Coulter-Nile and James Faulkner were particularly guilty. McKay sent down his deliveries with such little conviction that you had to wonder whether he wished he'd been replaced by a bowling machine.
Although his performance contained more fervour, Coulter-Nile's display was reminiscent of a thoughtless, 18-year-old tearaway being dispatched around a suburban park by wiser, hardened men. Unable to vary his pace or find a full length, the right-armer simply banged the ball in, over after over, watching Sharma lift him over the fence at will.
Faulkner, while slightly more crafty, fell victim to the same fate, his inability to deliver yorkers and cramping deliveries seeing him finish with unflattering figures of 1-75.
Yet this ineptitude wasn't limited to just one side.
India's Vinay Kumar will need to see his chiropractor this week, given the number of times his head flew back to watch another of his timid efforts reach the hands of a spectator. At nothing more than medium pace, Kumar's control of line and length should be the main weapon in his armoury, yet you could have been forgiven for thinking that Vinay fell asleep for that part of his instructional video.
Figures of 1-102 from just nine overs, though, will probably ensure he doesn't sleep again.
Dhoni has regularly stressed the importance of improving both the quality and discipline of his team's bowling, particularly at the death of an innings. However, it's hard to believe that his cries for improvement are being heard.
Precise and intelligent death bowling was once a feature of the limited-overs game, a skill appreciated by the overwhelming majority of cricket's fans. In fact, an over of dot balls amid a wild run chase has often received more applause than a towering six into the stands.
That skill, it seems, is now being overlooked. Bowlers simply don't appear to recognise the value of variety nor the true array of weapons at their disposal. The mind-numbing parade of predictable deliveries is the result of simple incompetence. How else can the relentless 300-plus scores in this series be explained?
Surely, we can't be led to believe that recent rule changes have taken a hold of this series. Just a short distance away, Pakistan and South Africa can barely reach 200, despite the matches being governed by the same laws.
The term cannon fodder has always been seen as rather derogatory, but if India and Australia's bowlers want to avoid being referred to as exactly that, they'd be well-advised to review their predictable and metronomic ways.
We have machines for that.
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