Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Do you really need pace bowlers to make a top Test team?

This is a repost of my facebook note:


Ok, so I think England are an amazing team, and they have certainly deserved to win so far. In addition, they definitely are worthy of the #1 slot because they are currently better than the 11 we are fielding right now.

However, I am really tired of hearing about this theory that a top test side must have three or four world class pace bowlers (the very first argument from Chappell's column http://www.espncricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/525295.html). I disagree with this completely (and I'm looking at you Mohit Singh and Mohit Gupta).

So I thought I'd say what I think.

Here are my two claims (just opinion, no statistics. I use players' names to give you an idea of the type of cricketer I am talking about):

(A) You can be a #1 Test side with three spinners and one pace bowler: If you give me three top spin bowlers (of the likes of Viswanath, Prasanna, Chandresekar) and one quality pace bowler (of the likes of Zaheer or Srinath) plus part timers (Sehwag or Yuvraj), then we can win abroad (in Australia and South Africa too).

I further submit that our bench strength of spin has always been world class and we should exploit this. Whether or not other teams do this is irrelevant, since they may not have our spin bench strength.

(B) More controversially, I believe you can be a #1 Test side with 8 batsmen and two pace bowlers: India likes to bat, and why should we apologize for this? Overwhelming batting strength is a valid and equally threatening policy as compared to having 5 pace bowlers (Windies in the 70s), once you satisfy the critical need of three or four part-timers, who bowl spin or left arm slow. So if you give me the classic 2002-2009, *full*, Indian attack with batting till #8 (plus Zaheer and, say, Ishant) and enough part-time bowlers to give the strike bowlers a rest, you can play a high-run scoring, winning strategy.

I also submit that this strategy is sort of contingent on have eight (or more) batsmen. It will not work if you have six or seven. Our last two captains do not take batting strategy to its logical conclusion (having the guts to bat till #8) and that is why we lose so many matches.

(C) Least controversially, I believe you can be a #1 Test side with four bowlers who all bowl at 135kmph or slower: If you have four bowlers who can swing and you have a good wicketkeeper, then there is no excuse for having problems abroad. Speed doesn't matter at all! Swing takes more wickets than bouncers any day.

Basically I am saying that you do not need overwhelming pace to win Test cricket.