Quick bowlers need tactical guidance and game plan

From first slip

IAN SNOOK
Last updated 09:04 15/09/2012

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OPINION: The Black Caps' fast bowlers deserve better. A complete lack of direction from the onfield leadership, and one assumes little tactical guidance from coach Mike Hesson during the second test against India, ensured that any chance of winning was never going to happen.

With opening batsmen Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir given a free rein to begin the chase against a plan that seemed to reek of trying to get a wicket every ball, the Indians were 50 in the blink of an eye.

There was no "set-up" plan bowling at stump four or even five with a minimum of three slips and a gully in place as well as a third man and backward point - the area of the ground where at least 25 per cent of the Indian runs were scored. Instead there was a field that ensured the bowlers were not quite sure which line they were supposed to be attacking, which presented a lot of "free hit" zones for the batsmen.

Indians are great wrist players, playing the ball late square of or behind point on the off side and square of or forward of square on the leg side, often playing across the pad. These were the positions that needed bolstering, not having two players under the helmets close in, which didn't allow the bowlers to bowl in to the weaker batting areas outside off stump, but instead announced to the batsmen that the line would be on the stumps.

Captaincy is huge in cricket, more so than in any other team game.

The ability of the captain to make good proactive decisions - to read the flow of the game knowing when to attack aggressively and when to attack defensively, where to attack different batsmen, how to get the best out of the bowlers, having fielders in their best position, and taking control through field placings, bowling changes, and acting quickly on gut instinct - is possessed by fewer and fewer of today's leaders.

The metronomic manner of similar fields for all batters, defending until a batsman gets himself out, and bowlers bowling a certain number of pre-designated overs, regardless of their success, are some really obvious ones.

Fortunately, for some captains, many teams at the top level possess players and are ultimately teams that are able to still be successful without an Ian Chappell or Martin Crowe charging at the head of the pack.

Ross Taylor needs help. His bowlers need help. This is a more- than-useful pace trio in Doug Bracewell, Trent Boult and Tim Southee.

Where they go from here will have much to do with the pre- game analysis of what they are up against - more importantly, how quickly Taylor learns his trade and is able to create a feeling of confidence from the rest of the team, particularly the bowlers.

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There is much to be done. If Taylor is to stand in the slip position he must aim at inspiring his bowlers in a similar manner to Stephen Fleming.

Hesson, as an Otago 'B' player, and now coach, has a huge amount of work to do in first of all winning the confidence of the players and then to rid his batsmen of elementary errors and, in turn, provide them with the confidence to perform on the big stage.

Obviously the analysis work, leadership, and the high performance coaching needs to move up a gear if an adequate test side is going to take advantage of any slim chances that pass their way. What is being presented at the moment is not satisfactory.

Happily the team can now move on to the Twenty20 World Cup, a competition that moves so quickly that the mindset has only one route, and which plays in to the hands of the Black Caps.

However, the lessons from India, and before that the West Indies, must be indelibly implanted in the minds of those who wish to remain involved in the test arena.

Ian Snook is a former Taranaki and Central Districts captain. He is one of only four men to have played more than 100 games for Taranaki.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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