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Rahul Dravid blames four-fielder rule and use of two new balls for death of part-time bowlers

India’s head coach Rahul Dravid reckons allowing only four fielders outside the 30-yard circle and two new balls at either ends as the reasons for the disappearance of part-time bowlers in limited overs cricket.

Since 2015, in the second powerplay which begins from eleventh over and lasts till the 40th, teams can have only four fielders outside the ring. It is the phase where teams mostly used the part-timers to send down a few overs.

“I think it is because of the rule change. Suddenly, you have gone from four fielders inside the ring to five fielders inside the ring. I think that has drastically changed the ability of part-time bowler to be able to bowl in the middle phase,” said Dravid.

In the Indian team that is picked for the World Cup, only Suryakumar Yadav has been bowling at the nets. Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, who used to chip in a few overs during the start of the career, don’t bowl anymore.

“In that kind of situation, you could lose a lot of part-time bowlers and not only us, but a lot of teams also did that. If you will notice, the number of part-time bowlers have gone down in other teams as well. It’s not only the Indian team,” Dravid added.

Among other top teams, England have the likes of Joe Root, Liam Livingstone, Moeen Ali to chip in with few overs. Australia have the likes of Glenn Maxwell and Steve Smith to go with the all-round skills of Mitch Marsh and Cameron Green. Even Pakistan, Sri Lanka all have batsmen who could bowl. But India don’t have that luxury.

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“Partly, it is because of two new balls as well, you have got five fielders in the ring in the middle overs. It is becoming more and more difficult for the part-time bowlers to bowl,” Dravid added.

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In the 2011, ODI World Cup in Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan and Virender Sehwag, India had useful part-time bowlers. But in the recent past, none of their batsmen including the upcoming ones are multi-dimensional. In the current World Cup team, India doesn’t have anyone who can chip in with a couple of overs.

Even in net sessions, very rarely have India’s top order batsmen are seen bowling. Dravid said it is an area India are trying to improve on with the likes of Suryakumar Yadav and Tilak Varma were seen bowling regularly at the nets during the Asia Cup.

“It’s not that they are not bowling in the nets, lot of batsmen they do bowl in the nets. If you don’t get opportunities to bowl in the middle then it becomes very difficult to develop your skill. And more and more captains and coaches are vary of the rules and so they will always look to play a genuine bowler in the mix. This is something we are working on it. It’s not that we don’t work on that, we constantly work on it and we are constantly working on some of our bowlers to bat well as well. Certainly (whenever the rules changed), the count of part-time bowlers has reduced,” said Dravid.

Former England captain Nasser Hussain told Sky Sports recently said that the major concern for India going into the ODI World Cup is that their batters don’t bowl and their bowlers don’t bowl.

“What they probably lack is if you look at their batters, their batters don’t bowl and their bowlers don’t bat. So it’s a different make-up to their side to be with an England with all the all-rounders or Australia with all the all-rounders,” Hussain had said.

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Former India fielding coach R Sridhar in his book Coaching Beyond: My Days With The Indian Cricket Team, has explained the decline of part-time bowlers. Sridhar had blamed it on having throwdown specialists.

“One of the main reasons for that is our coaching system. With the Indian team now, as it has been for a little while, we have three dedicated throwdown specialists and generally, we get four nets. Two nets are used for full-fledged bowling; in the other two nets, there is always someone who wants extra batting. Most of the batters finish their 20–25 minutes of batting, after which there are between three and five men waiting with weapons in their hand – I am referring, of course, to the sidearm or the slinger.”

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“Across formats, all our batters only bat, they don’t bowl at all,” Sridhar wrote.

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