England’s surge to Ashes victory has been depicted as a triumph of attacking intent – but assistant coach Paul Farbrace explains the new style came about not entirely by design in the drawn series at home to New Zealand at the start of the summer.
Farbrace & Bayliss have transformed this England team from data-led robots to buccaneering free spirits. They look liberated. #Ashes
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) August 8, 2015
England impressed not just with their comprehensive victory but the manner in which they won with the likes of James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Ben Stokes taking it to the Australians.
The seeds may have been sown against New Zealand in which England matched the Black Caps attacking intent with bat and ball.
“I don’t think we set out to be an ultra-attacking team. It just happened by chance, at 30 for four on that first day at Lord’s, that (Joe) Root plays one way, get his singles and scores boundaries, and (Ben) Stokes came in and whacked it, Farbrace said.
“All of a sudden the headlines were ‘this new England way of playing’… but I think we stumbled across it as opposed to set out to play in that way.”
Either way, it is working. “It suits us,” added Farbrace. “You look at the way the middle order play and they are all quite attacking batsmen. Trev keeps telling them to have a positive mindset, because then you are in the best position to play whatever ball is delivered to you – in the best position to leave, defend or hit it.”
Farbrace knows there will still be blips between the victories – especially with tough winter tours in the offing, against Pakistan in the UAE and then on to South Africa.
He namechecks 12 England cricketers, across the formats, with potential to be stars of the future – and describes Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Broad and Anderson as “absolute dream senior players”. But exacting tests lie ahead.
“The next Test match series in UAE will be as tough, if not tougher, than this series – because the conditions are very different, and Pakistan are a fantastic side in those conditions,” he said. “We have got to play exceptionally well in that series. We will be a little bit up-and-down, hit-and-miss and inconsistent. We have to accept that – which is hard as coaches.”
Former cricket boss Lalit Modi admitted his involvement in a plot to overthrow the sport’s establishment, aiming to create a new world governing body affiliated with the Olympic movement.
The ex-Indian Premier League chairman, who is wanted by police over allegations of money laundering linked to a lucrative television deal, said a detailed plan had been years in the making.
“We’re talking about another cricketing system. There is a blueprint out there, it’s got my rubber stamp on it,” he said in a television interview.
“I have been involved in it. I say it for the first time, I’ve been involved in putting that (blue) print together.”
In the past, while acknowledging involvement in discussions to set up a new governing body, Modi had insisted he had walked away from the project.
Modi, who lives in London after fleeing India in 2010 when tax and financial crime authorities raided his premises, has long been critical of the International Cricket Council’s governance structure and financial model.
He has voiced concern at the control exercised by India, England and Australia over the way world cricket is run and said he believed he could spearhead an alternative.
“We could take on the existing establishment, no problem,” he said. “It requires a few billion dollars, I don’t think it would be a problem to get that… into action.”
Modi was fired from his job as IPL commissioner in 2010. In 2013 he was banned for life from playing any role in cricket administration by the Board of Control for Cricket in India.
Last week a warrant for his arrest was issued by a court in Mumbai at the request of India’s economic intelligence agency, the Enforcement Directorate, which is investigating allegations of money laundering. Modi has not been charged and denies all the allegations.
INC press conference’s feed on the Lalit Modi was cut and suddenly Salman Khan’s PC was aired as soon as Narendra Modi’s name was mentioned
— Scotchy (@scotchism) August 10, 2015
His blueprint foresees a new cricketing world body affiliated with the Olympic movement and a rival calendar of events to the ICC’s, based on Test matches and T20s with 50-over one-day internationals dumped.
“The plan conceives only of Test cricket and T20; it doesn’t take into account one-day at all,” he told the broadcaster. “I think that is completely redundant in today’s day and age. I think it should just be T20 and Test matches that should be played.”
He added that an affiliation with the Olympic movement, amid growing calls for T20 to be played at the world’s biggest sporting event, was part of the plan.
“I have been proposing that. The ICC will never agree to that; never means never,” he said. “That means they would have to do away with the ICC. It is a plan that one day, if I ever implement it, will rewrite history in sport.”
India bowling coach Bharat Arun made an observation the other day. While discussing captain Virat Kohli’s liking for a five-man bowling attack, he said all great Test teams of the past relied on a five-man attack to take 20 wickets and enforce wins.
While it’s nice to see India thinking on those lines, the reasoning provided is not correct. The two greatest teams of all time did not have a five-man bowling attack and they dominated for more than a decade in their respective eras.
Let’s start with the original dream team. The West Indies side of the mid to late 1970s and early 1980s under the captaincy of Clive Lloyd made it a habit of intimidating opposition batsmen with a four-pronged pace attack. And all four fast bowlers in the playing eleven were frighteningly quick.
From Michael Holding to Malcolm Marshall, Joel Garner to Andy Roberts, Colin Croft to Sylvester Clarke, the batsmen very rarely had any respite. And the Windies almost always fielded four quicks, with the job of filling in the overs taken up by Viv Richards’ off-spinners and later on by Roger Harper.
The West Indies seldom needed the fifth bowler as the first four they picked were simply outstanding. Similar was the case with the Australia team of the late 1990s and early 2000s under Steve Waugh.
They had, arguably, the most complete bowling attack in the history of cricket with pace bowling legends Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee and Jason Gillespie supported and complemented by the iconic leg-spinner Shane Warne.
Of all their ‘support’ bowlers, only Andrew Symonds was of a decent pedigree as others like Mark Waugh, Darren Lehmann and Greg Blewett were fairly innocuous. Once again, four world-class bowlers were enough for them.
In fact, the two teams who consistently played Test matches with five proper bowlers were generally regarded as the second best teams of their era. South Africa and Pakistan were blessed with seam-bowling all-rounders and used to play with five or even six bowlers.
While the Proteas had the likes of Shaun Pollock, Allan Donald, Fannie de Villiers, Lance Klusener, Jacques Kallis and spinners Pat Symcox and Paul Adams playing side by side and jostling for spots, Pakistan had the two W’s – Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis – with Shoaib Akhtar, all-rounders Abdul Razzaq, Azhar Mahmood, Shahid Afridi and spinner Saqlain Mushtaq to chose from.
What this proves is that both the four and five-bowler strategies work. But the first one can be employed by only those who have four world-class bowlers with them. The rest need to have five good ones. Since India don’t even have three top class bowlers, Kohli has been almost forced to go for the second option.
Strangely, fast bowling has becomes India’s forte simply because they only have one good spin bowling option in Ravichandran Ashwin for the Sri Lanka Test series that begins on Wednesday. Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh and leg spinner Amit Mishra have been discarded and then recalled, which doesn’t say a lot about their potency.
Beanpole quick Ishant Sharma picked up five wickets in the tour game and looks set to lead a pace bowling attack which has Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron and Bhuvneshwar Kumar in it. Since only Ishant and Ashwin can claim to be top class, and that too just about, it means Kohli has to accommodate five bowlers and give up on some batting stability to pick up 20 wickets and enforce a result.
The four-bowler strategy would have worked for India if all-rounder Irfan Pathan had lived up to the promise he had shown way back in 2003 as a lively left-arm swing bowler and a handy lower order batsman. But he lost his way badly and can now be seen strutting his stuff in a dance reality show on Indian television.
The next best option that India have managed to unearth is Stuart Binny but the 31-year-old bowls at medium pace and his batting is energetic at best. He is more of a luxury than a necessity.
So when bowling coach Arun gives the example of great teams of the past to support Kohli’s five-bowler theory, he is giving the wrong impression. India are not looking to emulate the all-time great teams of the West Indies, Australia or even South Africa and Pakistan.
The reality is a four-bowler attack simply will not take 20 wickets a Test on a consistent basis for India. Kohli has no option but to pack in five bowlers to go for victories he so badly needs to rein- force his attacking mantra in Test cricket. It’s a simple case of India having no choice but to go all out.
Kohli’s predecessor Mahendra Singh Dhoni believed in filling his team with batsmen and never gave bowling in Tests too much importance, which is one of the reasons India lost eights Test matches in a row away from home under him.
Kohli is at least open to the idea of beefing up the bowling attack, even though he doesn’t have a lot to work with.