Barinder Singh Sran digs debuts. On his ODI debut against Australia in Perth this January, he took three wickets. Now in his first T20 game for India, he has taken four — three of them in an over as India levelled the three-match series in Harare. The last time a young Indian left-handed bowler did well in Zimbabwe was in 2003 when Ashish Nehra caught the imagination with some fabulous seam bowling, impressing with his ability to bend the ball back into the right-handers. It held great promise but persistent injuries didn’t allow Nehra to have a great career that he seemed set for in 2003.

There is something about the incoming delivery by a left-handed bowler that throws up great hope. Nehra then, Sran now. It’s pertinent to stress here that Nehra’s was vastly superior weapon. At times, on that Zimbabwe tour in ‘03, on helpful pitches, he got the ball to cut back even from outside off into the line of the stumps — the angles involved in the ball-bending was testament to a greater talent.

Sran gets just about enough movement back in to hold out hope and interest the selectors to invest in him. On Monday, all the four wickets came from different deliveries. The first was a good slower offcutter that was enough to fool an impatient Chamu Chibhabha to hole out to the on side. The previous nine deliveries had produced runs only off extras and Chibhabha was sucker-punched by the change of pace. In these days of IPL, and a glut of limited-overs glut, the possession and execution of slower ones doesn’t surprise really but it was good to see that young brain was ticking.

The triple strike in the next over, fifth of the innings, will be the one that Sran would probably cue up on his phone in the coming days. The first wicket came through an ugly swipe from Hamilton Masakadza but it was a good ball. It pitched on the middle and leg and bent/straightened enough to hit the middle and leg stumps — there was no threat of wood on leather.

Last week, Sran spoke about the development of this delivery. How he learnt seam and wrist position from Nehra during IPL, and went back to his coach Amit Uniyal to firm up the process. The lengths he hit in this game, and in general in this series, has been the key. They have been up in the batsmen’s half and in line of the stumps — the kinds that makes Michael Holding drawl on air, ‘if you miss, I hit’.

The next wicket was a gift from the batsman Sikandar Raza. It was a delivery that angled across him, and he seemed in a hypnotic trance when he steered it straight to the gully fielder. The third dismissal came with a little bit of help from the umpire. The ball landed just outside leg and angled in towards off to catch the shuffling batsmen a touch high but when it’s your day, it’s your day.

This tour couldn’t have come at a better time for the likes of Sran. Sample his quote from last week. “I am not over-exerting myself. Because if I do that, I struggle to maintain wrist position and my swing gets affected. So I am only focusing on swinging the ball and trying to find the right areas to do that from.”

He would have had no chance but to over exert against tougher opposition. Against Zimbabwe, he can afford not to relax but has no reason to get all panicky under pressure. He can maintain “shape” and focus on what he wants to do with the ball rather than worry what the batsmen might do to him.
It was the reverse for the Indian openers Mandeep Singh and KL Rahul. They had to keep their guard up in the first three overs when the new-ball bowlers got the ball to seam in a bit, looking for a bat-and-pad gap, but once they saw that attempt through, the openers were up and away without much fuss.

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