Mumbai: Singling out one key area where the Indian team was found wanting during its last tour to Australia, fast bowling great Jeff Thomson on Monday said that the attack, spearheaded by Ishant Sharma, lacked in discipline.
"Indian bowlers were not bad, but they lacked discipline on their last tour to Australia. Their concentration dropped off which made it very hard. If you can't bowl 5-6 balls where you want in an over, you will be punished," said Thomson at his first media conference after taking charge of the Mumbai Cricket Association-IDBI Federal Life Insurance Bowling Foundation today.
India lost the four-match Test series 0-2 after slumping to defeats in the first two matches - at Adelaide and Brisbane - while drawing the other two games held at Melbourne and Sydney.
Thomson, who formed a deadly combination with the other great Australian fast bowler of the 1970s - Dennis Lillee - also recalled Ishant's impressive stint on India's earlier tour Down Under in 2007-08 when he took the wicket of the then home-side captain Ricky Ponting in both innings with fiery stuff at Perth in the game that India won.
"I (Ishant) think he lacked a bit of discipline. He bowled a lot of deliveries down the leg side. Eight years ago I thought he will be a world beater, but he lost the plot somewhere. He has got very good skills, but needs a rocket....I hope you understand what I am saying," he said to peals of laughter.
Recently, Ishant hit the landmark of 200 wickets in his 65th Test during India's tour to Sri Lanka.
The 64-year-old Queenslander, who has been contracted for the project for two years and will spend the next month here guiding a group of 30 Mumbai bowlers - a lot of them between 19-23 years of age - said that the more one bowls the more skillful he becomes.
"I hated gym work as I had done a lot of physical work chasing pigs before my entry into international cricket. There's no replacement for actual bowling. I bowled a lot of balls in my time. There's only one way to improve skills as a bowler - by bowling balls," he said in reply to a query on modern day fast bowlers indulging in a lot of work-outs in gymnasium.
However, Thomson said he realised the difficulties in fast bowlers bowling a lot of overs in Indian track and weather conditions.
"These flat wickets could be a bit of a problem. You have to look after the bowlers, monitor their work load," said the former fast bowler who picked up 200 wickets in 51 Tests.
"The biggest things are skill and control, apart from the desire to be the best, better than the one next to you. Otherwise you will be an also ran," he added.
Thomson said he has coached a football team in Australia, apart from guiding the Queensland state team to the Sheffield Shield in cricket and coaching Zimbabwe in England in 1999.
He felt that one month gave him enough time to work on the Mumbai bowlers' skill set when he compared it to his 10 days' work with his former fast bowling partner, Lillee, in the MRF pace foundation in Chennai once in the past.
"I am annoyed at (the state of) cricket coaching these days. A lot of funny coaching is going around. My job here is to share the tricks of the trade. I love imparting knowledge and attitude. Fast bowlers have a lot of attitude. They need to be aggressive.
"It's a challenge. Hopefully kids will learn and go on to play for India. It's all about making kids think for themselves. It's not hard work, just repetition, what is required of the situation.
"Any fast bowler can do it on a green top. It's when things don't help you. You got to work it out yourself as you can't run to the coaches during the two-hour session," he added.
Former India captain and MCA Vice-President Dilip Vengsarkar said Thomson was among the fastest bowlers he had faced in his career.
"I faced him on my first tour to Australia in 1977-78, for the first time in the tour game against Queensland. I couldn't see the fourth or fifth ball he bowled to me at Brisbane and in the Test match that followed I was on 48 (out of team's first innings total of 153 all out) when one of his bouncers hit my cap and fell on the stumps and I got out hit-wicket," he recalled.