Why Indian batters don’t bowl? Blame it on five-fielder rule: Dravid

PTI, Sep 22, 2023, 9:47 AM IST

The Indian cricket team think-tank’s urge to play more all-rounders in recent years has got a lot to do with the current crop of top-order batters not rolling their arms over unlike some of their illustrious seniors from the bygone era.

The Indian team’s desperation to field bits and pieces players like Axar Patel or Washington Sundar is based on two counts — batters not bowling enough and tail-enders not displaying enough gumption with the willow.

So what has changed?

‘I think it could be because of the rule change. Suddenly you have gone from four fielders inside the ring to five fielders inside the ring. I think that has drastically changed the ability of part-time bowler to be able to bowl in the middle phase,’ Dravid said in defence of his team in which none among Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Shreyas Iyer or Suryakumar Yadav bowl.

Surya in fact was called for suspect action some years back during a Mumbai Indians match and never bowled again. Before Surya, Shikhar Dhawan would bowl his off-spinners on and off but he was also called for chucking in domestic cricket and stopped bowling altogether.

A glance at some numbers from the past will help us dig deeper as to what changed.

Sachin Tendulkar, who bowled, inswingers, outswingers, leg-breaks, off-breaks has 154 ODI wickets. Sourav Ganguly with his military medium stuff has 100 scalps while Yuvraj Singh, whose bowling won India the 2011 World Cup, retired with 111 victims. These were all specialist batters in the top five.

If these names are not enough, Virender Sehwag with 96 wickets and Suresh Raina with 36 sticks also did their part under MS Dhoni.

‘If you remember and mention all these names (Sachin, Sourav, Sehwag, Yuvraj, Raina) bowling in this phase, a lot of these guys started when there used to be only four fielders in the ring.

‘In that kind of situation (five fielders outside the ring), you could lose a lot of part-time bowlers and not only us, a lot of teams did that. If you will notice, the number of part-time bowlers have gone down in other teams as well.

‘It’s not only the Indian team,’ Dravid wanted to remind one and all who cared to listen.

The two new balls from both ends, which effectively means one white Kookaburra is just 25 overs old, has also contributed to this decline.

‘Partly, it is because of two new balls, you have got five fielders in the ring in the middle overs. It’s not that they are not bowling in the nets, lot of bowlers do try, they bowl in the nets.

‘But if you don’t get opportunities to bowl in the middle then it became very difficult to develop your skill,’ the coach said.

He also attributed to the defensive mindsets of captains and coaches, who don’t want to punt on a part-timer.

‘And more and more captains and coaches are wary of the rules and so they will always look to play a genuine bowler in the mix because of the two new balls and five fielders in the ring.’

So what could be the solution? It is about finding more all-rounders and that has been the current team management’s endeavour.

‘Also try to find genuine all-rounders in the team and the goal is really to try and find sort of genuine all-rounders. This is something we are working on.

‘It’s not that we don’t work on that, we constantly work on it and we are constantly working on some of our bowlers to bat well as well. Certainly (whenever rules changed), lot of part-time bowlers have been reduced.’

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