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Pace is still the ace

By S. Dinakar



Australian bowlers seem to revel in all sorts of conditions, as was the case at the Chinnaswamy Stadium where they had the Indians hopping around. - Photo: V.V. Krishnan

BANGALORE, OCT. 8. Glenn McGrath wiped the sweat off his brow, pushed his hair back, walked back to the top of his run-up, head held high and straight, gait measured, and then steamed in. He was ready to look the sub-continental challenge in the eye.

Dry, brown, and slow surfaces can break a paceman's heart. This is a territory where pace is relegated to the background, and spin is king, or so it may seem.

Yet, even in the heartland of spin, pace can be ace as the Indian batsmen discovered the hard way at the Chinnaswamy Stadium.

With the lean and mean McGrath as the ace in the pack, the Aussie pace attack sent the home batsmen on a tailspin.

The relentless pressure from a persistent bunch of pacemen brought about the rather tame surrender of the Indians here on the third day of the first Test.

Aussie bugbear V.V.S. Laxman might have been consumed by a peach of a delivery from leg-spin genius Shane Warne, but it was McGrath & Co. who provided the Aussies a huge first innings advantage.

Deadliest

McGrath is evidently slower these days, but then, the golden virtues of his bowling remain; in any case it is accuracy that counts for more than speed in the sub-continent.

He surely is the deadliest `corridor' bowler of our times, someone who regularly slices through with the new ball, but he is also among the most intelligent customers around.

Realising that there was an element of double bounce in the pitch, he wisely probed the batsmen with off-cutters and a particularly well-directed one breached a `Wall' in the form of Rahul Dravid.

Bowling in the sub-continental conditions is not impossible for a paceman, and, in his illustrious career, Kapil Dev, displayed that with a consistent line around off-stump, a fuller length, and the ability to bowl the away swinger and the off-cutter, the batsman could be scalped.

The off-cutter will always remain a key ball in such conditions where there is a tendency for the deliveries to keep low, while it is easier to swing the ball away here than get a leg-cutter going, since the surface might not hold enough bounce and carry.

Perfect control

McGrath, rightly, pitched the ball up, and such was his control that the batsmen were struggling to launch into aggressive strokes against him. He also sent down some telling yorkers and there was a hint of late movement for the Aussie.

Jason Gillespie's length was not as full as that of McGrath, and only when he realised this folly did he strike towards the end of the innings. The

Australian `three-quarters' length will not work here, unless the pitch develops cracks.

Among the Australian pacemen, Michael Kasprovicz is likely to the extract the most in terms of bounce in this series, for he possesses extremely strong shoulders.

The big-made bowler is in the form of his career these days, and as the third paceman he not only has to maintain the pressure but strike, like he did on the second day.

Shining examples

The current crop of Aussie pacemen have shining examples in the form of Alan Davidson, a left-armer, and Garth McKenzie. Both these bowlers took flight in India. Davidson of that lovely away swinger, claimed 29 wickets on the 1959-60 tour, and McKenzie was a prominent part of the attack when the Aussies last triumphed in a Test series in India, in 1969-70.

McGrath & Co. would have some forgettable cricketing memories of this country, especially of a long, hot and eventually series-turning fourth day at the Eden Gardens in 2001 when V.V.S. Laxman and Rahul Dravid, stayed unseparated.

The Aussies appear to have arrived in India with a well worked-out gameplan this time around, and McGrath's tactics, for most part, could not have been more right.

In the Australian quest to conquer the Final Frontier, McGrath and his pack are bound to be in the thick of action. And pace could well emerge the ace.

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