It’s been a fortnight since Bharat Arun’s six-year spell as India bowling coach–comprising two separate stints with Anil Kumble’s one-year as head coach sandwiched in between–came to a definitive end. The 58-year-old is now back in his leafy Chennai abode, sans the hustle and bustle of assisting India through their hugely demanding schedule. It is still too early, though, for him to completely detach himself from the fortunes of the Indian team, which is why he has been hooked on to the ongoing home series against New Zealand.
“Honestly, it hasn’t yet sunk in that my time with the Indian team is over. Sometimes it does. And sometimes, you still feel a part of the team. I will maybe feel that I have moved on when I start doing something else. But I have been part of the team as bowling coach for very long. I will always feel part of the dressing room even when I am watching from the drawing room,” Arun said during a chat on Sunday afternoon.
While the end to Arun’s and head coach Ravi Shastri’s tenures was an anti-climax courtesy of a hasty exit from the T20 World Cup, they have managed to leave an indelible imprint with the peaks that India conquered in Test cricket–two consecutive series wins in Australia being the obvious high points. India also finished runners-up in the inaugural ICC Test Championship cycle while they currently hold a 2-1 series lead in England. None of this would have happened without the emergence of a fast-bowling pack now widely feted as among the best in the world.
The trio of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma has led the charge admirably, claiming 286 Test scalps among themselves since January 2018 at a combined average hovering around 22. Behind the top rung, there are also the likes of Mohammed Siraj and Shardul Thakur who have shown – both in Australia and England for instance – that they can step up. Arun is the man responsible for diligently fine-tuning the skills of these pacers and instilling in them the virtues of discipline and consistency. It has ensured the Indian attack’s potency across a wide spectrum of conditions.
“The team is in a far better place than when we took over. When I came in, the bowlers were extremely skillful but the area we lacked in was consistency. In some cases, it was a technical issue. In some cases, it was about trying for more swing or pitching it up because they have not got wickets. As much as batters need patience, fast bowlers too need extreme patience. It is good to be aggressive but it is controlled aggression that is going to pay dividends,” said Arun.
The challenge now, of course, is for the Indian bowlers to not veer away from the high standards they have set for themselves in Test cricket in particular. While Bumrah is 27 and should have plenty more to offer going forward, the same perhaps cannot be said of Ishant and Shami given that they are 33 and 31, respectively. Towards the end of the England series, we saw a glimpse of that with Siraj forcing his way in ahead of an increasingly weary Ishant. The bowlers will be subjected to a stern test next month when they embark on a tour of South Africa, especially given that they have bio-bubbles and a non-stop calendar to contend with.
“The challenge is that a bigger pool of bowlers needs to be created with the volume of cricket India are playing. We have around 5 or 6 fast bowlers. It should become 8-10 bowlers. The amount of cricket needs that larger pool,” Arun said.
For that to materialise, though, the nurturing of the younger bowlers needs to be spot on. With Rahul Dravid taking over as coach and VVS Laxman in charge of the National Cricket Academy (NCA), Arun believes India are in capable hands.
“The coaches who have come in have enough credentials to carry on the work or to do even better. As far as the bowlers are concerned, some are at the twilight of their careers but they have been instrumental in inspiring many youngsters. India’s fast-bowling bench strength looks pretty impressive. If they are nurtured correctly, we can get extremely good results from them,” he added. “I am sure with Dravid and Laxman being there, there will definitely be more understanding. With the rapport they share, I am sure the NCA and the Indian team can work together to easily create a bigger bench strength.”
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