David Willey has questioned the tactics of India’s bowlers repeatedly pulling out of their delivery stride during the first T20I at Old Trafford. Kuldeep Yadav did it at least twice against Jos Buttler and then Bhuvneshwar Kumar followed with the final ball of the innings to Willey.
It led to a sharp exchange of words between Bhuvneshwar and Willey with the England allrounder saying he did not agree with the bowler doing it.
“I’m guessing, but I think he [Bhuvneshwar] was looking to see what I was going to do,” Willey said. “They did that a few times. The spinners did it a couple of times. I’m not sure what the rules are on that. I don’t particularly like it. I don’t think it is necessarily in the spirit of cricket. It’s not my job to comment on that too much on what they should or shouldn’t be doing. Personally, I don’t think I’d do that. I don’t think it is great.”
However, KL Rahul believes that the T20 format is so weighted in the batsman’s favour that anything a bowler can do to try and even the contest should be permitted and also questioned how far England’s non-strikers were backing up.
“It will frustrate me as a batsman, it did I guess frustrate the English batsmen but the margin for error for bowlers in T20 cricket is very little so whatever tactics they can come up with and whatever they try to do to upset the batsmen is only fair,” he said.
“You know you can do it as a bowler, you can run a batsman out, he was taking few strides too many and it is a long boundary and if he gets that much start he can keep rotating the strike and keep getting two runs which will frustrate the bowler in return, so it’s only fair.”
The fact that it has only taken until the first match of the tour for the first signs of some tension suggests it won’t be the last occasion that tempers rise. Willey spoke about the exchange with Bhuvneshwar in the final over of the England innings, but said that it was nothing unpleasant.
“It was something of nothing. I think with all the microphones and cameras people get a bit giddy about this sort of thing,” he said. “I don’t think they got under our skin particularly. They have a few fiery characters and that is part and parcel of cricket. It has gone on for years, mostly unnoticed because of the lack of cameras and microphones. There is more attention drawn to it now. There is far less of it now.
“I don’t mind a bit of confrontation. I have had my fair share of it in the past. If it comes my way I am quite happy to get involved. We are advised to play cricket and leave those antics to other people.”
More than India’s bowlers occasionally pulling away, though, England’s biggest challenge appears to be picking the left-arm wristspin of Kuldeep. In an effort to mimic his skills they employed the Merlyn spin-bowling machine during their net session in Cardiff and Willey – who struck the only six Kuldeep conceded at Old Trafford – has backed the batsmen to decipher the variations.
“People come in, a little bit of unknown, or you’re maybe not 100% sure how someone’s going to bowl or how they approach their bowling. It can baffle you a little bit,” he said. “But our numbers against spin are brilliant, and we’ll come back. No doubt tomorrow will be a different outcome.”
When Rahul, the centurion in Manchester, was asked whether playing wrist-spin was an inherent weakness in England batsmen, he said that it was challenge globally. “I don’t think it is just England. A good wrist spinner is a good wrist spinner against any opposition. And with the kind of skill and quality that Kuldeep and Yuzvendra Chahal have, it’s always going to be hard for a team that doesn’t play spin a lot.
“What Kuldeep did was special, getting a five-for in a T20 game isn’t easy,” Rahul said. “You can be bowling well but most times he could get away for two or three wickets and go for 30 runs. But he kept at it. To get balls like that against Bairstow and Root, it is always hard for a middle-order batsman.
“That’s something we’re very confident with, to play two wristspinners and do most damage for us. We are missing Bumrah up the order a little bit, but the way Chahal and Kuldeep are bowling, they’re going to be dangerous throughout the series.”