Can India Stop Varun Aaron's Talent as a Fast Bowler Going to Waste?

Tim CollinsFeatured ColumnistAugust 8, 2014

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 07:  India bowler Varun Aaron  celebrates after dismissing England batsman Gary Ballance during day one of the 4th Investec Test match between England and India at Old Trafford on August 7, 2014 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Stu Forster/Getty Images

"Imagine being able to bowl that ball just once in your life," ESPN Cricinfo's Jarrod Kimber remarked on Twitter

"That ball" he was referring to was one from Varun Aaron that dismissed Moeen Ali on Day 2 of the fourth Test between England and India at Old Trafford.

"That ball" was one delivered from around the wicket, one that started wide before viciously swinging into the left-hander, one that seemed like a heat-seeking missile as it ripped through Moeen's defence to crash into his off-stump at blistering pace prior to lunch in a gloomy Manchester. 

As the Englishman trudged his way back to the dressing room, perhaps pondering if he'd just received the ball of the summer, the Indian speedster's figures read: 13.2 overs, three-for-40 and one battered stump. 

"Where's this fella been hiding?" quickly became the query ringing around the stands at Old Trafford.

On February 26 this year in a one-day international against Bangladesh in the Asia Cup, Aaron did something extremely rare for a Indian paceman: touch 150 kph. 

Clocked at 93.2 mph (149.99 kph), the 24-year-old made his ghastly figures of 1-74 from less than eight overs simply redundant with one unusually brisk delivery. 

Speed, after all, is the new (rediscovered) currency of seam bowling, thanks largely to Mitchell Johnson's savagery against England and South Africa. 

Thus, when a bowler—particularly a relatively fresh-faced one—claims a wicket with sheer pace, it becomes instantly significant. Like some kind of mark-this-date-on-the-calendar moment, as though it signals the emergence of new star. 

But it hasn't often worked like that for India. 

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 08:  India bowler Varun Aaron (c) celebrates after dismissing England batsman Moeen Ali during day two of the 4th Investec Test match at Old Trafford on August 8, 2014 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Image
Stu Forster/Getty Images

As recently as 2006, a strongly built seamer named Munaf Patel made his debut, hyped as the fastest speedster to emerge from the subcontinent in years. Sachin Tendulkar had even taken a special interest in Patel. 

In his maiden outing against England in Mohali, the right-armer claimed match figures of 7-97, the best performance in history by an Indian seamer playing his first Test. 

Then the inevitable struck. 

After a bright opening to his career, Patel's action and confidence fell apart as quickly as his fragile body, seeing his pace vanish. On the lifeless Indian pitches, he attempted to reinvent himself as a reliable (slow) back-up option.

He played his last Test in 2011 and finished with a career average nearing 40. 

MUMBAI, INDIA - MARCH 19:  Munaf Patel of India celebrates as he bowls Matthew Hoggard of England during the second day of the Third Test between India and England at the Wankhede Stadium on March 19, 2006 in Mumbai, India.  (Photo by Ben Radford/Getty Im
Ben Radford/Getty Images

Little more than a year after Patel's debut, Ishant Sharma—replacing the aforementioned seamer—stepped into the Test arena for India, possessing pace that was as notable as his hair. 

Also one to touch 150 kphdoing so while tormenting the great Ricky PontingIshant was supposedly the "next best thing in Indian cricket," according to Steve Waugh. He bowled a spell in Perth that went into Indian mythology. 

Still only 25, he now bowls in the mid-130s and owns a Test average, like Patel, nearing 40. 

Before both Ishant and Patel, it was Irfan Pathan who excited those associated with India. On debut against Australia, the left-armer's combination of reverse swing and sharp pace had observers whispering that he was the brightest seam-bowling prospect to emerge from the subcontinent in years.

Sound familiar?

Pathan's Test career spanned just five years, ending in 2008 after averaging almost 50 across his last seven appearances. 

MOHALI, INDIA - OCTOBER 20:  Ishant Sharma of India celebrates bowling Ricky Ponting of Australia during day four of the Second Test match between India and Australia at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium on October 20, 2008 in Mohali, India.  (Photo
Michael Steele/Getty Images

And therein lies the problem for Aaron: Being a truly fast-bowler from India is a way to wind up being a punchline to a joke.

Even those who have done it well (Javagal Srinath) have been worn down by expectation and barren strips of turf, reducing precocious fast bowling to something far more mundane. 

"Imagine being able to bowl that ball just once in your life."

Aaron just did. But he might not do it twice.