Zaheer has the best wrist in cricket: Dawes
Kolkata, Dec 6: When he took over as India’s bowling mentor in February 2012, Joe Dawes had an unenvied job of presiding over a bowling attack that was finding its feet in the under transition Team India. Just short of completing a year with the team, the Queenslander has managed to build a good rapport with his wards.
Dawes has also begun the process of achieving something that was one of his first aims when he took over the reins of India’s bowling – to develop a group of seven to eight pace bowlers who are ready to perform at the highest level whenever the opportunity arises.
Despite what may be visible from the outside, Dawes believes Team India is walking down the right path as far as the bowling is concerned. In a chat with bcci.tv, India’s bowling coach spoke about the process of building strong fast bowling resources and presented his views on the three frontrunners – Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav.
The journey so far
I’ve been in this job since nine months and it’s been challenging. I believe that we’re making progress, although the results in this series say otherwise. But when you have two young spinners like Pragyan Ojha and Ravichandran Ashwin who are very new to international cricket, they’ve got to learn. They’re gaining good education of the game at the moment and they’re working hard at their game. We’re improving and getting to where we want to be.
Forming the wolfpack
There’s no official group as such, but I’ve spoken to the new selection committee about identifying a number of bowlers who we can invest on. We’ve had some meetings over the last couple of weeks in which we’ve planned for programmes for the bowlers coming in. This morning we sat down and made a rough list of bowlers for the T20s and ODIs and get things in place for them so that when they get into the team they’re ready. We’re working behind the scenes to put some programmes and protocols in place. With Umesh and Varun Aaron injured and Irfan Pathan out of the team for the time being, takes three out of the group but that’s the whole purpose – to have a big pool to choose from when injuries surface. We have a close eye on the Ranji Trophy to look out for the guys who put their hands up so we can have a few more bowlers. We’re getting there.
The star students
Zaheer Khan: We’ve had this joke going around in the change room that Zak’s back. I thought he wasn’t at his best against New Zealand and he’ll be the first to admit that. But he’s gone back and worked hard. He’s run himself into a bit of nick with his fitness and has started to get the ball through with some pace and get it to nip back. I truly believe that the time is not far away when he starts getting the wickets that he deserves. He bowled very well today [in the first innings of the Kolkata Test] and also in the last couple of Test matches. He’s going well.
Zak probably has the best wrist in world cricket. You watch the ball come out of his hand from purely technical point of view and it’s just beautiful. He keeps the seam up and hits the seam all the time, every time. He’s not as young as he once was and so he’s probably not as quick as well. But he’s a very smart bowler. Considering the conditions he has to bowl in most of the times, in the subcontinent, he’s got to be among the top six bowlers in the world today. Maybe his results at times don’t show that but for the effort he puts in and the way he leads that bowling group on the field in such hard conditions, he earns his money well and truly.
Ishant Sharma: He bowled in a Test match today after a long time and I thought he did pretty well. He was unlucky not to get a wicket. He has worked hard to come back from his injury and you can see the changes in his action. He’s much taller now and doesn’t fall over while angling the ball in. The next step is to give him a consistent out-swinger and that’s coming well.
Since I’ve been here and he’s been back in the group, he’s been an absolute pleasure to work with. He does everything you ask of him. He knows what he needs and what he has to do and he’s very open to listen. You can have some very good, honest conversations with him because he’s very keen to improve.
The plus with him is that he’s still a very young man and he’s already played 45 Test matches; he’s an experienced cricketer. He’s now only 24 and his body will learn to endure the rigours of fast bowling with time and he’ll only get better from here. It’s a very good base to have a 24-year-old fast bowler with so much experience in Test cricket already.
Umesh Yadav: Umesh made a real improvement in the last innings of the New Zealand series. Then he went away to play the CLT20 in the South African conditions. And he came back to bowl very well in the Ahmedabad Test. I’m happy with where he’s going; disappointing for him to be injured but we have things in mind to put in place for him when he comes back; just tweak his action a little bit more and continue to help the young bloke get stronger and fitter.
In the New Zealand series he probably struggled with his consistency and his pace. We talked about his preparation and especially his arm path-ways – following the ball, as he likes to say. We worked on that – getting his wrist behind the ball – and had some results; he nipped of [Brendon] McCullum in the second innings of the second Test match with a beauty. It’s a gradual process because you’re changing a lot of muscle memory. But he has been coming along pretty well.
The road ahead
When we won the first three Test matches here, I thought Test cricket was a pretty easy game. But the last two haven’t gone as per plan. But we’ve been up against two of the best batsmen of the world in Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen who have, in this series, given a lesson on how to bat.
We’ve spoken a lot about patience as a group. The two spinners are quite young – they’ve only played a dozen Tests or so – and they’re still learning their craft at the moment. That’s why they have struggled with their consistency and we have talked about that. I know it’s going to be hard but in the time that I’ve been here, I’ve achieved some good relationships with the boys. That is now allowing me to have open conversations with them and start to build and we’re getting there slowly.