THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Not often do you see a fielding captain deploying four slips and a leg slip in white-ball cricket, especially in Indian conditions. And that too on a pitch where the team batting first has scored close to 400 runs.
But on Sunday evening at the Greenfield stadium here in Thiruvananthapuram, Indian skipper Rohit Sharma decided to place such an attacking field in the final ODI of the three-match series because Mohammed Siraj was causing havoc among the Sri Lankan batsmen.
Siraj, who looks to be in fine rhythm while running in and was the most impressive bowler in the first two ODIs against the Lankans, had reserved his best for last. In an inspired opening spell, he plotted the downfall of the visitors by showcasing the quintessential abilities of a new-ball bowler: he managed to take the ball away from the batsmen, hold its line and bring it in too.
The 28-year-old, who finished with career-best figures of 4/32 and emerged as the top-wicket-taker in the series with nine wickets, attributes his success to his ploy of attacking the batsmen in his opening burst.
“My plan was to take as many wickets as possible with the new ball and put the opposition under pressure. Even if I concede boundaries, I am okay with it as long as I am able to claim a couple of wickets and put the opposition on the back foot,” he said.
Siraj’s plan seems to be working well as he had the most wickets (15) for an international bowler in the powerplay in ODIs last year. For that, he credits the wobble-seam delivery that he has managed to develop. “With wobble seam, neither I know nor the batsmen knows how much the ball tends to move. Sometimes, the ball might hold its line, sometimes it moves into the batsman. I take a lot of wickets with wobble seam. For me, it is effective. I have got success with it and trust wobble seam more,” he said.
The Hyderabad pacer made his T20 debut for India back in 2017 before getting a maiden ODI call-up two years later, and was rewarded with a Test cap the following year. “I had inswing first but then I lost it after a while. So I developed the outswinger. Since I couldn’t bowl the inswing anymore, I developed the wobble-seam delivery. It took a lot of time for me to be effective with wobble seam. Now both the outswing and wobble-seam deliveries are proving to be helpful.
“The seam position I use is for a natural outswinger. When I use the wobble seam, the ball position tilts towards fine leg. I try to hit the deck hard when I use wobbled seam because it is more effective,” Siraj said. Though he made his international debut in T20Is, where his economy rate proves to be his undoing, the pacer seems to be on his own in the ODIs and Tests and has risen to the occasion in Jasprit Bumrah‘s absence.
While the expressive pacer’s intent can be gauged by the way he runs in to bowl, he seems to have found a way to surprise the batsmen. “If I execute my line and length properly, it will be difficult for batsmen to hit. Whether it is Tests, T20Is or ODIs, if you keep bowling in the right areas, rewards will come. “
With the Tests against Australia to follow and the ODI World Cup later on, Siraj’s ability to provide breakthroughs with the new ball will be crucial.
WHAT IS A WOBBLE-SEAM DELIVERY?
– When a fast bowler bowls such a delivery, the seam will wobble slightly from side to side, unlike a conventional pacer’s delivery in which the seam stays upright.
– If the bowler bends his back and hits the deck hard, the wobble-seam delivery will deviate unpredictably off the pitch.
– England pacer James Anderson is credited with inventing the delivery, which he says he developed after watching Mohammad Asif up close on Pakistan‘s tour of England in 2010.
– The delivery is usually bowled by holding the ball as one would for a regular seamer’s delivery, with the ring and middle finger on either side of the seam, but much wider apart so that the seam is more visible.
– The trick lies in how the ball is released, with the wrist ‘locked’ so the ball is not ‘pushed’ out of the hand like an usual delivery, giving it a chance to wobble.
– Many top international bowlers, like Siraj, now have their own version of the wobble-seam delivery.