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"I've seen more short balls in a week than I've ever seen in past World Cups," gushes Allan Donald, former South Africa pacer and Kent's current assistant coach. You can sense the excitement in his voice over the phone. And there's a good reason for it.
After all, this was supposed to be the World Cup where 350 was to be the new benchmark. All the evidence had pointed towards that. However, the top eight wicket-takers all being fast bowlers ten games into the tournament tells you a different story. Only four hundreds have been scored so far and the strike-rates have been rendered unimportant with the occasional exception of England.
The lack of swing in the white Kookaburra is well-known now. But Trent Boult suggested that this particular batch was shinier and swingier, if you'd like that. But it seems like that message hasn't caught on amongst the rest of the fast bowling group, who are singing contrasting tunes on the pitch, and to great effect.
West Indies have two in the top wicket-takers list so far - Oshane Thomas and Andre Russell. In many ways, they could be credited with the revival of something not seen for a long time in ODI cricket. Raw and visceral fast bowling. The short-ball strategy got Pakistan bundled out for 105, sending shockwaves around the world and also providing a pattern that could be replicated, if you have the right resources.
And all of that has made for some pretty exciting cricket already, despite the big scores not coming as predicted. For Allan Donald, all this has been "fabulous to watch." "The approach has been fantastic, I love the approach. I think it has been spot-on."
Primary to implementing such a plan is obviously pace, but it helps if you have an added dimension of innocuous angle such as Bumrah or Starc. You could have added Kagiso Rabada to this list as well, if things had gone his way against India where he could have had Rohit Sharma thrice, all to back of length balls only to see it either falling between fielders or their fingers.
According to CricViz, the total percentage of overs bowled by pacers in the in-between length and shorter (421.2 in total) far overshadows the ones fuller (107.2). This has been the most productive one for pacers, yielding 77 of the wickets to fall, which is more than double the wickets yielded by fuller lengths.
Leading the way on that front, unsurprisingly, are West Indies who have bowled 25.6% of all their pace bowling as bouncers. It is a high-risk strategy, clearly as the run-rate off bouncers (8.14) suggests but when as many as 28 wickets fall to that, you'd think that the rewards are justified. "The big emphasis now is pace and hunt wickets. That frees bowlers up to just relax and bowl quick," feels Donald.
Even India, in their only game so far, despite having someone like Bhuvneshwar Kumar in their ranks bowled 86.2% of their balls as in-between or shorter. There's no doubt that the man leading the way there was Jasprit Bumrah. It was something that Kohli alluded to after the game, calling Bumrah good enough to be nicking batsmen off from 'Test match lengths' as he called it.
Donald agrees with Kohli. "I think it's almost like Test match mentality where a lot of the times you see two slips, three slips. Even at times a guy back on the hook, we saw a short leg the other day.
"I just think that everyone has gone in with a fearless attitude... and I've said this years ago, the attitude towards fast bowling has got to change," says Donald.
What is that attitude? Allow Donald to explain.
"It's an attitude [going] into a hard length, you've got to have a Test-match mentality. What do I do during a Test match? I just absolutely obliterate back of a length. Really, really hard!"
But these are still early stages in the tournament. Most of the pitches are fresh and offer enough to make this strategy work. But Donald sees this changing over the course of the tournament.
"I don't think so," he says when asked if he sees the short-pitched trend continuing. "I think the spinners will come into it big time. They're using two strips per venue and I think you'll see that at the moment we're going through a couple of weeks where it is still quite chilly. I think the approach won't change, don't get me wrong, the approach won't change. But, during the summer, you'll see the ball reversing more, the squares will start out to wear more," he explains.
"A statement is being made and it's fearless cricket with the ball," adds Donald.
Over to the batsmen now.
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