Bowling coach Bharat’s report card on Shami, Bumrah, Ashwin, Bhuvi, Jadeja

India, a discovery

From changing Shami’s run-up to giving feedback to Bumrah, listening to Ashwin; Bharat Arun tells Sriram Veera about the one-on-one sessions that changed India’s bowling unit

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Mohammed Shami

‘Finding Optimal Walking Speed’

He is a rhythmic bowler and it was clear that his entire bowling depends on the kind of run-up he makes. It wasn’t just about running fast. You run so fast that you are perfectly balanced when you deliver at the crease. Was looking for what is the optimum walking speed. We explained its importance to Shami. It can’t happen if he doesn’t trust and is willing to work hard. He was. There were people who told him – ‘Don’t change anything, work with what you’ve got here’ – which is good advice, but where is the growth unless you try? He has one of the best seam positions in the world. With such a great natural release position where the seam is straight through the air, he gains more speed from the wicket than from the air which makes him dangerous. Batsmen have less time and they don’t know where it is going to move.

Ishant Sharma

‘His bowling needed a little twist’

He was not asking the batsmen to play more and more. It was just a small turn – the angle at which he approached the stumps. It mainly came from the way he caught the ball. If seen, the way his fingers sit on the ball is different from most fast bowlers. He had it at an angle, bent according to the position of his wrist. This will allow him to push the ball away (with his right hand) before going inside with his natural in-dippers. But he will eventually push it a bit outside the off-stump. He was releasing from near the stumps. So, we got him the ball from the center of the box, which gave him a better angle for his in-dippers, allowing the batsmen to play him more.

Jasprit Bumrah

‘Always trying new things’

He wanted to excel in Test cricket: that was his dream. BOOM was always ready to try different things in the nets. My job was to give the right feedback. He is extremely intelligent and a very quick learner. He naturally wanted to know why certain things were happening with the ball – my job was to empower that knowledge. He learned how to harmonize with different lengths on different pitches. We talked during sessions, breaks, and I knew with him that it wouldn’t burden him at all. He is someone who likes that knowledge.

Kuldeep Yadav

‘He needs more enthusiasm through the crease’

His peak hasn’t come during my tenure, yes, but the kind of work we’ve done and importantly he’s putting in, it means he’s on the right track. He is young (26), and the future is still out there. All I want from him is to gain more strength through the crease. Achieving that enthusiasm is a combination of working more on the bowling and getting fit. Vigor doesn’t mean taking it out quickly. Once you get that power through the crease, with the body fully in action, you feel more dizzy. Remember the ball he bowled to dismiss Babar Azam in the 2019 World Cup? It had everything. A spinner really matures when he is 27-28 and if he maintains fitness after that, he has a career span of 10 years.

R Ashwin

‘Don’t be afraid to step out of comfort zone’

I thoroughly enjoyed my conversation with Ashwin. He used to ask you a lot of questions and to answer it definitively, I had to go deep into my knowledge. The best part about Ashwin is that he is not afraid to step out of his comfort zone. This time in Australia, he almost loaded the front of the face. This helped him stay upright and generate more overspin. He used to do small things: leaning forward at release, weights in front, when he wanted to bowl slow without being apparent from the movement of his arm. He would come back after loading when he wanted more dips and turns. My job is to observe these little things, see if anything is going wrong, and point out if necessary.

Ravindra Jadeja

‘He is a boon’

Jadeja is a boon to India. Since the 2018 tour of England, he has matured beautifully as a batsman. He has a lovely rhythm in his bowling, is now a banker bowler, and if there is even the slightest help on the wicket, he is very dangerous. And we all know the energy he brings to the field. Overall a beautiful package.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar

‘When momentum fell, it was not effective’

He is quintessentially talented; How many bowlers naturally like him can swing the ball both ways? Every time he was bowling 135+, he looked very powerful. He could have used his talent much more and got more Test wickets. Somehow it didn’t happen. The secret of his performance is his fitness. When the speed has decreased, he has not been as effective. It is purely about his fitness and stamina.

mohammed siraji

‘Line and length are properties’

I was very happy to see him perform well because I knew what kind of hunger he had while playing for Hyderabad. Such is his passion. The biggest assets are line and length. You tell him the plan, give him a particular pitch and length to bowl on the line and you can be sure he will bowl ball after ball. He looked like he belonged there in his first Test as well. Good enough to win the match.

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Bharat Arun reveals how Shami and Ashwin overcame their disillusionment

Shami was very upset with life, was on the verge of quitting the game: Bharat

Shami was completely disillusioned. He was on the verge of quitting the game. When Ravi and I sat down with him, he said that he was “extremely angry with life” and “I want to leave it”. We said, “It’s good that you’re angry. Anger is the best thing that has happened to you.” He looked at us awkwardly. We told him, “You are a fast bowler; anger is not bad! Let’s take away the bitterness of it. Life has made you a very angry man.” But what are you gonna do now? You can leave, it’s your choice but you can also say to yourself that I’m angry, how do I channelize it? We told them, “Your body, fitness But pay attention. Go to NCA (National Cricket Academy) for a month and get your body in shape. Take out the anger there.” He went and acted like a frantic bull, I listened, and I remember he told me, “I’ve got the strength, I can take on the world!”. He was a strong man and that period of anger really helped him do something better. No more laxity, no more ‘put it, let’s see what happens’. He was now focused and ready every time at the top of his run-up. He was now a true fast bowler.

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“Ashwin’s injury was a boon in disguise”

In 2018, nearing the end and after that tour of England, Ashwin was quite disillusioned. His body, fitness stopped him from achieving what he could. Remember, he made a great start in the first Test in Birmingham. Then his dead body came in the middle. I could understand his frustration. Injuries that did not help him complete his action. Maybe, what happened to her at that time was a blessing in disguise because now she has taken care of her diet, her exercise regimen and she is the fittest ever. The knowledge and experience he has gained is all kicking off beautifully. It is no surprise that he has made a comeback in white-ball cricket as well. I can even say that you will see the best of Ashwin in future. Everything is syncing really well.

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