Aaron and the Hype Alert

Am I the only one who is not convinced about the Aaron hype?

How often have we jumped up at the sign of a bowler who gets deliveries beyond the 140+ mark?How often has that euphoria lasted? And how often has that bowler sustained that pace? We have been on this road before haven’t we?

The same script is rewritten time and again (Think it’s time to outrage against plagiarism in this regard). Ishant, Pathan, Sreesanth, Agarkar, Nehra, RP Singh, Munaf, Mithun, Unadkat, VRV Singh, Yohannan, Harvinder Singh, Mohanty (The last 4 names ring a bell or hunting for them on Wikipedia/Cricinfo?)

Here goes the script: A bowler comes to limelight from a few matches and bowls a few 140+K deliveries. The stage is set – the media, experts and fans go ga-ga on how we have found our answer to the Donalds, Akrams, Ambroses, McGraths, Akhtars, Lees, and Steyns of the world. We have found our Destiny’s Child – Let’s celebrate!  Then the Destiny’s child never grows up, the dream lasts for a match, at max a series, never a season – so forget an entire career. There are interim spurts of brilliance – like Agarkar in Adelaide 03, Ishant on that 3rd morning at Lords or in the WI ‘11, Pathan Vs Pak ‘04 and Zim ‘05, RP Singh at Lords ‘07. Those moments are sporadic and rare.

All the names mentioned above were to be the long awaited solution to our pace bowling problem but barring Zaheer not one has lived up to the hype – for that matter even Zaheer who hit the scene as 21 year old has had his self-doubting moments before his resurgence on the 2007 Eng tour.

 Agarkar and Irfan were claimed to be Kapil and Akram clones respectively. Agarkar’s prodigious outswing and Irfan’s impressive yorkers – What happened?

The perennial problem in my opinion has been our management of our pace bowlers. We take them out of their comfort zone and put them against the big guns expecting wonders. When they fail, we throw them away and forget and begin our hunt for someone new. We fail to nurture and cultivate them. We have not solved the equation – not even after the failures we have seen. I wish someone conducted a study of the identification, development and sustenance of fast bowlers in India. It’s a project most consultants should strive for; it will be worth every penny if we find the answers to this puzzle. We seem to get the first bit right but screw up on the important last 2 bits.

 Zaheer Khan’s injury concerns are well-known; I can almost sense bets being placed around me on whether he will last the entire Aus series or not. Name the last crucial series abroad in which he did not breakdown either at the start or midway. My hopes for Aus are not too high having seen him limp off from Lords on Day 1 – I was there damn it and it hurt.

I’m not convinced of our bowling prospects hitting the international scene having spent only a year or two on the domestic scene and now the IPL hype is adding to this mess. Aaron and Unadkat are the products of the latter hype. 4 overs at 140+ compared to 20 overs at 140+ , does that look sustainable if both have played 10 or less First Class games? We all know how well it went down with Unadkat.

Now go ahead – sell me Aaron as a hope. Just how awesome has his domestic record been? Has he set the scene on fire? Has he run through batting line-ups? Has he represented India-A in the longer version?

26 wickets in 12 First Class matches (before his test debut) at 41.50 apiece at a SR of 77 is not my definition of “eye-ball popping” figures; and they don’t make me scream “Why is this bloke being wasted on the domestic scene and not playing against the biggies?”

Here is what I dug up from the archives – first class records of all the “pace bowling hopefuls” before their respective test debuts. Are you surprised that Aaron has the worst figures of the lot? 

PlayerFC Span before debutTest DebutMatInnsOversMdnsRunsWktsAveEconSRBalls Bowled
> 15 matches
IK PathanMar01 - Nov03Dec-033048905.319027939031.033.0960.375433
MM PatelOct03-Feb06Mar-062443688.515218558821.082.6946.974133
S SreesanthNov02-Mar06Mar-062337617.113619686132.263.1960.703703
U YadavNov08-Nov11Nov-112034564.411917886925.913.1749.103388
10 - 15 matches
Z KhanNov99 - Nov00Nov-001018378.47312824032.053.3956.802272
I Sharma*Nov06 - Nov07Nov-07152751212914675924.862.8752.073072
AB AgarkarOct96-Mar98Oct-981319267.3529044022.603.3840.131605
RP SinghOct03-Oct05Jan-061322374.16610424523.162.7949.892245
VR AaronNov08-Nov11Nov-111216334.56810792641.503.2377.272009
A NehraOct97-Feb99Feb-991120328679404122.932.8748.001968
A MithunNov09-Jul10Jul-101121367.15813515325.493.6841.572203
< 10 matches
JD UnadkatJun10-Nov10Dec-10814278.1528413127.133.0253.841669
VRV SinghNov04-Feb06Jun-06816233.5308103523.143.4740.091403

(*Ishant played 6 FC matches taking 29 wickets at Avg of 20 and SR of 50 before his test debut in May-07 Vs Bangladesh. Given Bangladesh as test opponent I’ve included the test among his FC performances until his real test Vs Pak )


I’m not making a case against Aaron or saying that he is not an interesting prospect or that he will do not do well; but I’m dreading the hype surrounding him. I’m still not sold onto his inclusion in the test squad, not yet, not even after seeing him bowl in the Mumbai test or the ODIs. Call me a skeptic, but I guess we have been hurt so much in the past that this skepticism is justified.

This obsession with pace scares me, one tends to lose sight of the real essence of fast bowling – ability to bowl the right length, hit the deck and constantly probe the batsman. Play with the batsman’s psyche and keep him guessing. We’ve seen what happened to Lee and Akhtar in their pursuit for pace.  Their fear was momentary when they hit the scene, later the best batsman had them figured out. Then think of what McGrath, Walsh, and Steyn achieved – constant fear in the batsman’s mind.

 If there is anyone we should be looking forward to it is Umesh Yadav and not Aaron. They both have had the same time in domestic circuit but to Umesh’s fortune and Aaron’s misfortune (given that he represents Jharkand who can go only so much far in the Ranji trophy), Umesh’s domestic figures reflect a far better performance than Aaron.

 Of the little I’ve seen the two bowl – Umesh inspires more confidence, he looks a finished product, ready for the big stage, unnerved by the opponents he faces. Aus will be his acid test. If he comes good, let’s hope he lasts a few more seasons (I’m not even getting on the hope bandwagon of what a career he has in front of him and all that jazz)

To justify Aaron, don’t throw Cummins and Pattinson at me cause then I’ll throw the McGraths, Gillespies, Lees and even Mitchell Johnsons of the world at you and make you find me their equivalent Indian counterparts. Let’s not get into that game. Don’t even get to Pak – they have a gold mine of bowlers; my last hope is that a search team is appointed with the mission to locate the gold mine and maybe raid it as a last resort.

 Our bowlers are not built the same way. They need different management – of their bodies and their careers. The difference in our domestic cricket and international cricket is still huge and the transition has to be smooth, uninterrupted. Once they hit the scene they need to be trained to first strengthen their bodies – so that the pace does not drop and the injuries don’t hit them frequently. They need to be used judiciously and this is possible when you have identified 3-4 bowlers who will be your future attack, rotating them then makes it easy to play them in 2-2 or 3-1 combinations. It will ensure a good balance, keep them in match rhythm and help them get appropriate rest.

To end, I had written this post on Shane Bond on The SightScreen and in one comment Aditya had shared a lovely snippet on Steyn and his fitness regime:

“I’d love to share what Evans Speechly(RCB physio) made of Steyn during IPL-3.He was amazed by his fitness levels and he said he had no doubts what-so-ever that he’d one day go on to be a great of the game! He bowled a few in the late 150′s during the course of the tournament and Speechly thought he was capable of adding a few yards more! Completely attributed to Steyn’s fitness and conditioning.”

Fast bowlers are a rarity – talented fast bowlers are a gift. We in India including that gifted person do not know how to take care of that gift. All that we do know very well is to create  an unnecessary hype!