Johannesburg: Indian pacers are taking more wickets abroad than ever before, leaving the team’s former bowling coach Eric Simons so impressed that he equated them with their vaunted pace counterparts from South Africa.
Simons, whose time in India saw them lift the 2011 World Cup, termed the pace attack’s efforts in the first two Tests against the Proteas a “top job”.
“As a coach, I don’t always go according to the results. So, in both the first two Tests, India’s bowling attack has done a top job. What they did really well was have good tactics and plans in place, and they executed those plans too,” Simons said.
The one silver lining in India’s humiliating defeats in Cape Town and Centurion was the performance of their fast-bowling attack, and Simons took note of it.
“Cape Town and Centurion were different wickets, but on both of them, sometimes bowlers become impatient and try a lot of things. Indian bowlers, though, showed good patience and stuck to their plans.
“Again, the key to their bowling plans has been patience. We saw in Newlands that they beat the edge so many times but didn’t get frustrated when small partnerships happened. At Centurion, they bowled fuller lengths as per the conditions and didn’t give away too many runs.”
Simons then likened the efforts of the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami with South Africa’s attack.
“South Africa’s bowling attack, in these conditions, is much more vaunted but in both Tests, India’s bowling has kept them to nearly the same scores and created chances of victory. That puts in perspective how well these guys have bowled,” he added.
Talking of Jasprit Bumrah’s initiation into Test cricket, the former Rising Pune Supergiants’ coach said, “I have seen him a few times, particularly in the shorter formats. The more variations you have, or the more unorthodoxy in your bowling action, the more advantage you have.
“He is somebody I could compare with Lasith Malinga, whose action was so different. The batsmen get so used to playing normal bowlers that these little variations help.
“Suddenly something different comes along and the ball doesn’t come to you quite how you expect it to, and that tends to help the bowler.
Speaking further on Bumrah, whose awkward action creates problems for batsmen, Simons said the bowler listens to advice.
“So with Bumrah, he doesn’t have a classical action and he has worked very hard to get where he has. In that, he is more like Kagiso Rabada. He is humble, grounded and listens when people talk to him about improvement.
“You combine that with his different action and it becomes his strength as a bowler in many ways. It is like batsmen who are limited, but you look at the likes of Steve Smith, who has made his limitation his strength. Bumrah is in at that mold,” he added.
Additionally though, the former coach had some serious advice to the Indian batsmen ahead of the third Test as the visitors look to avoid a 3-0 whitewash.
“When Indian cricketers come to South Africa, it is not about the balls you play. Mostly it is about the balls you leave, and that often defines your innings. I don’t think they have left very well, especially in conditions at Cape Town.
“That got them into trouble and they became confused in the second innings. Even in Centurion on a different wicket, apart from Virat Kohli, they allowed South African bowlers to bowl at them rather than bowl in wider channels too often.”
He thought R Ashwin, though not a specialist batsman, played people like Vernon Philander better than most of the other batters.
“Say, someone like Vernon Philander, sometimes you need to get into his channel and play him around that off-stump. If you look at how R Ashwin batted against him at Cape Town, he got behind Philander’s line and forced him to change plans.
“If you allow him to bowl in a channel, and keep bowling there, he will get you out eventually because he can move the ball both ways,” Simons said.