Sunday, January 31, 2010

ART OF PACE BOWLING - IS BOUNCER A WEAPON OR SAVAGERY

Dear (s)



The otherwise meek surrender by Bangladesh in the recently concluded 2 Test series was not at all surprising but in the second test, Rahul Dravid went down clutching his jaw hit by a Shahadat Hossain Bouncer. A bloody injury which will keep him away from the South African Test. A man known for his organized defence once had to bear the brunt. In the recent series, Ponting had one nasty blow from Kemar Roach, which perhaps raised his bid in the IPL auction.

Why is red cherry so dangerous !!! -

Cricket balls weigh not less than 5 1/2 ounces/155.9g, nor more than 5 3/4 ounces/163g, and shall measure not less than 8 13/16 in/22.4cm, nor more than 9 in/22.9cm in circumference. The red cherry hurled at 100 mph can be devastating as it gives less than a fraction for the batsmen to decide its trajectory, height and the length and react on whether to duck, defend or hook.

A cricket ball is a hard, solid ball made from a core of cork [Cork material is a subset of generic cork tissue, harvested for commercial use primarily from the Cork Oak tree], which is layered with tightly wound string, and covered by a leather case with a slightly raised sewn seam. The covering is constructed of four pieces of leather shaped similar to the peel of a quartered orange, but one hemisphere is rotated by 90 degrees with respect to the other. The “equator” of the ball is stitched with string to form the seam, with a total of six rows of stitches. The remaining two joins between the leather pieces are left unstitched. The manipulation of a cricket ball, through employment of its various physical properties, is the staple component of bowling and dismissing batsmen – movement in the air, and off the ground, is influenced by the condition of the ball and the efforts of the bowler.

The weapon of the fast bowler is the bouncer (bumper) a type of delivery, pitched short so that it bounces short of the batsman and rears up to the chest or head height. Good pacers drive the batsman to the backfoot and make them defend the ball improperly so that it would pop up in the air, setting up a catch in the close in fielding positions. Aiming at the batsman's head without bouncing on the pitch, known as a beamer, is illegal. Good pace bowlers were able to set up two players in the deep, bounce, have the batsmen go for the hook – ending up in the throat of the fielder stationed there for the miscued pull or hook.

A batsman may play a bouncer in either a defensive or an attacking way. Sunil Gavaskar was adept in playing a rising delivery with a soft hand making it fall dead in front and not carrying to the fielders. There were known good hookers like Vivian Richards, Gordon Greenidge, Kim Hughes, Mohinder, Kapil and our own Krish Srikkanth. Shorter batsmen like Sachin sometime have the advantage as they could harmlessly fly over or at times they will have to jump to defend. Modern batsmen employ shots playing them over the keeper and slips and sometimes in one dayers, they would even get into the line and swat it over the leg side.

Well – the bouncer is it savagery or an armour of the pacer. Cricket game is tough and many have had injuries struck on face, head, shoulder and hand by the red cherry. In 80s when the windies pace battery was at its savage best, many batsmen left the field bleeding through the nose !.




In 1976 the last test was almost forfeited by Bedi with more batsmen visiting the hospital than in the pitch felled by brutal Holding and Wayne Daniel, more as a retort for that loss in Port of Spain when Indians successfully chased 405 in the fourth innings. In 1983, Mohinder had his teeth falling on ground – yet displayed audacious courage in hooking Holding for sixers. Vengsarkar had his share. Later Srikkanth had his fore arm fractured by a rising Bishop delivery.

Way back in 1961, Charlie Griffith felled Nari Contractor by a bouncer and he battled for life. Ewan Chatfield was once struck by a bouncer and almost lost his life. Malcolm Marshall was fiery when he bowled round the wicket targeting the body more than the wicket and once Mike Gatting had his nose bruised. There are many occasions of Aussie pacers hitting the batsmen on head. Pakis were not far behind. In a friendly match in India, Miandad was hit by a Denniss Lillee bouncer and remained in the hospital not knowing the condition of the match. Justin Langer was struck on head by Ntini and Mcgrath felled Shivnaraine Chandrapal.

Fast leg theory, the deliberate and sustained bowling of bouncers aimed at the body, was a tactic used by England against Australia in 1932/33, dubbed the Bodyline series by the Australians. This controversial tactic caused the Laws of Cricket to be reformed to prevent any recurrence.

Generally there is an unwritten agreement that pacers do not hurtle bouncers at tail enders but all this would change depending on the desperation of the bowler and the fielding side.

The terrible fearsome Holding, Roberts, Crofts, Garner, Marshall, Bishop, Ambrose, Patterson all could hurtle at great pace and make the ball climb awkwardly not only from a short length but at times coil it up from close to good length, making the life miserable for batsmen.

                                               
The modern day spectators watching on TV may never understand the  fear down the spine and the trouble of facing the pacer with a lengthy run up – early day Lillee, Thompson, Lever, Willis, Holding, Patterson, Imran Khan, Wasim Akram – when the batsmen had less of protective gear. Batsmen without helmet shuddered playing them on green top and could blows all over the body – that makes the efforts of Mohinders all the more gutsy. Gavaskar in the dusk of his career had a protective head gear. Legend Vivian Richards did not sport a helmet, still could swat the fastest ball gracefully or with brute power. In olden days, there were some batsmen who would withdraw towards the square leg umpire at the sight of a fast bowler.

For long long time, Indians were only at the receiving end, getting hit by bowlers. This happened even in Indian soil. Remember during 1978 when a depleted West Indian side toured India, in the chepauk test, Vengsarkar threw his bat in protest unable to hold on to the barrage of bouncers from Philip and young Marshall. Indian opening bowlers were primarily asked to take the shine off and were not expected to take wickets.

At Faislabad in 1978 something great happened – a gawky youngster burst short balls to Majid Khan and Sadiq Mohammed forcing them to call for helmet. Once worn, another bouncer screamed past and the next hit the helmet with a thud making the wicket keeper Kirmani and other close in fielders scream without belief.  An Indian bowler hurting the batsman with pace !! something not many even had dreamt of. The face of Indian cricket changed much after that with the advent of the great KAPIL DEV NIKHANJ – though he had to battle most of his career on lifeless tracks without much support from the other end. Now a days we have many like Srinath, Zaheer, Ashish Nehra, Ishant, Sreesanth bowling clocking 145 kmph at times and hurrying the batsmen with their well directed bouncers.

We still look to a day when an Indian bowler would bowl closer to the speed barrier of 100 MPH i.e., 161 kmph and harry the batsman.

If you liked this post, please do record your feedback here in the box.

Cricket lover : S. Sampathkumar.

50 comments:

  1. Nice post Sampath. I do think Tendulkar is over rated where fast bowling is concerned and would have a 47-48 test average and a 37-38 one day average at most if he was playing between 1970-1990 when pace bowling was at its peak, no bouncer limits, fast pitches, no helmets, no shortened boundaries, local umpires (out lbw if it just touched ur pads), no entourage (physiotherapist, diet specialist,psychoanalyst,massagers, etc, etc.)

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