New Delhi, July 18 (IANS): “You need to play a little bit better with your left arm (pace bowling). History tells you that “Shaheen Shah Afridi blew her away in Dubai one night, Mohammad Amir blew her away in a final at the Oval one afternoon and Reece Topley blew her out here (at Old Trafford),” were the words of the former Englishman Captain Nasser Hussain during Sunday’s ODI Series playoff.
Hussain’s words came after India’s star-studded top order of captain Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli fell to left-arm pacesetters for the second time in as many games during the ODI series in England. It was again highlighted that India’s top batters, who face problems and folds to left-arm bowlers, has been an ongoing problem that doesn’t look like going away any time soon.
Mustafizur Rahman in Bangladesh in 2015. Mohammad Amir at the 2017 Champions Trophy final at The Oval. Jason Behrendorff in a T20I match at Guwahati in 2017. Trent Boult in 2017 and the ODI World Cup semifinals in 2019. Shaheen Shah Afridi in Dubai in the 2021 T20 World Cup. Now Reece Topley has his name added to the list of Left-handers included troubling Indian top order in white ball cricket
At Lord’s, when England found something off the pitch, Topley ran through the Indian top order. With his tall 1.82m stature, he also got some bounce and got a full ball on the center stump to get back over the wicket and snuck past the inside edge to tap Rohit on his back pad in front of stumps.
Topley’s persistence earned him another scalp when he strangled Shikhar Dhawan in the leg with a short ball. On the other hand, David Willey was accurate and was rewarded for it when he threw a long ball wide of the stump and Virat Kohli had it blasted off the body only to nod afterward.
At Old Trafford it was Topley again who caused problems for India’s top order. He tricked Dhawan into moving away from his body, which the left-hander couldn’t resist, giving the backward point a low catch. Rohit was undone by a full delivery which he buckled to slide. Kohli also received the full and cross ball from Topley, but he committed to get up front and gave an advantage backwards.
Looking at the overall record in ODIs, the struggle of India’s top three becomes clearer. In ODIs, Sharma has been discharged from left-arm pacemakers 28 times and has an average of 50.46 with a hit rate of 54.4. Dhawan has a 37.5 average against left arm pace with a batting average of 96 and has been sacked 26 times. Kohli has been left-arm paced 30 times and has a 47.67 average with a 97.5 hit rate.
In general, batsmen find it difficult to face a fast bowler with their left arm. One of the reasons could be that the number of left arm pace bowlers in international cricket is rare. Also, they are occasionally unplayable in helpful conditions where movement or bounce is available, particularly when coming from over the wicket.
Another reason could be the lack of quality left-arm fast bowlers in the current Indian lineup. Following the resignations of Zaheer Khan, Irfan Pathan and Ashish Nehra, India has tried many left-arm pacemakers such as Barinder Sran, Khaleel Ahmed, Jaydev Unadkat, T. Natarajan and more recently young Arshdeep Singh (who is currently down with a right abdominal strain). . . IPL 2022 also brought new promising names such as Mohsin Khan, Yash Dayal and Mukesh Choudhary.
But the lack of habit of facing quicks with the left arm since the troika of Zaheer, Pathan and Nehra withdrew is slowly causing problems for Indian hitters, especially the top order ones, as they lack a quality fast bowler with the left Having arm who can swing the ball both ways and extract the bounce in the face in the nets. Failure to net the left pacer regularly means that the top order Indian batsmen find it difficult to adjust their stance and movement at the crease when an actual game occurs.
So how do India’s top order batters solve their left arm pace problem? The solution to this lies in a masterclass video available on Youtube by England’s talismanic batter Joe Root showing how he would make adjustments to counter fast bowlers with the left arm coming from the angle over the wicket.
“Generally I would stand on the middle stump and try to keep him calm and neutral by opening both sides of the wicket. Maybe my back foot goes a little further over for a left-hander. My left foot will open slightly and I’ll try and just align my shoulder with where the ball is coming from.”
“I want the thug to come straight down and follow it back the way it came. Early on in my innings I would try to make sure you really want to hit him down the middle to give the best chance.”
Root’s master class could be a good tutorial for the Indian top order to attack the fast bowlers with the left arm in white ball cricket. On numerous previous occasions, India’s high-level collapse with left-arm pacemakers has cost them crucial games, particularly at the ICC tournaments. Hopefully, India’s top batters will mend this weak spot in their armor before two crucial White Ball World Championships take place in the next 16 months.