Bowling to Tailenders: Why India Struggle in Overseas Test Cricket?

The Indian team recently lost the World Test Championship Final at Southampton against New Zealand and if the team would want to do a debrief on the game, they’ll find a single glaring issue that cost them the Championship – the difference between the tailenders of India and those of the Kiwis.

India has struggled overseas mainly owing to lower-order issues. It is a two-fold problem that costs them games on most occasions. While the Indian lower-order batters have struggled to apply themselves in challenging conditions against quality fast bowlers, the opposition lower-order has strung together partnerships to annoy Virat Kohli’s team. The lower order of New Zealand scored vital runs in the first innings of the WTC final and their combined total made an important difference in the eventual outcome of the game.

So the question here is why does this Indian bowling unit, which is considered one of the best in the world, struggle against tailenders in overseas conditions? 



In conditions that are favourable to fast bowling, the very best top-orders of the world struggle to keep up with the Indian trio of Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah. On the other hand, the opposition bowlers tend to stick around for far longer than they ideally should. In matches where conditions are bowling friendly, a good 20-30 runs from a lower order batter can be the difference between a win or a defeat. In the World Test Championship Final, New Zealand’s Kyle Jamieson and Tim Southee added 21 and 30 runs, respectively. Those 51 runs, in the end, were vital for the Blackcaps and brought them an ICC trophy after 21 years



From the outside, it seems like the Indian bowlers start bowling too short when they see an opposition lower-order batter. They suddenly go away from their good length bowling and start bowling bouncers in an attempt to intimidate the tailenders. By bowling short, the opposition lower-order batters would try to swing their bat at few and that results in some cheap runs to be leaked at the back end of the innings. 



Sometimes all you need to do is put a mystery spinner in front of a tailender and they’d struggle to read such a bowler. Apart from Jasprit Bumrah, all the other bowlers have conventional bowling actions and load ups, while none of the spinners have enough variations to bamboozle the opposition tailenders. This is where you need a mystery off-spinner or a leg spinner who can bowl a wrong un’ or a flipper. 



The team normally would come across a situation where an established batter is settled at the crease when the tailender joins him in the centre. So what India immediately start doing is to give the established batter undue respect and give him opportunities to take singles to focus their attack on only one end which is against the tailender. What happens here is that the team forgets that conditions are challenging for any batter and they are giving unnecessary easy runs at one end.

The established batter would try to hog the strike for the majority of the over and the bowlers would be able to attack the tailender for only a ball or two per over which the modern-day tailenders can negate. In conditions where it is challenging to bat in, the attack should be on both ends and no easy runs should be allowed in this case. 

Read: What Happened to the Good Old Art of Patient Test Batting?




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