Among the many strange decisions taken by Indian team managements in recent years, the reluctance to play Varun Aaron in the limited overs matches in England must be the most baffling. He is clearly the most exciting young prospect among the numerous fast bowling contenders, having sent down a delivery clocked at 153 kmph in a domestic match, and is very obviously cut out for bigger things.
Aaron is a bowler who should be given the most number of opportunities to prove his undoubted skill and talent. And yet a bowler who unleashed a devilish ball in Indian conditions and on an Indian pitch was asked to warm the benches in an atmosphere that was ideal for his bowling while everyone else got a chance to figure in at least one match. It was most unfathomable and showed the Indian team management in poor light.
The lad from Jharkhand, who turns 22 on Saturday, is already one of the most talked about cricketers in the land. The buzz is that he could well be the best thing to happen to Indian fast bowling in ages. Even among the several young candidates for higher honours, Aaron stands out. The first thing going for him is his pace.
Aaron bowls 140 to 145 kmph constantly and that is quite a feat, especially in hot and humid conditions and on pitches that do nothing to aid fast bowlers. Taking all this in his stride, Aaron has never compromised on his pace and this is a commendable trait.
Under adverse circumstances, most young bowlers would try and cut down on bowling fast and concentrate on things like swing and seam, line and length. But as one who has grown up admiring former West Indian fast bowling great Andy Roberts, Aaron is clearly focused on bowling as fast as he can.
One can only hope and pray that he does not go the way of some other fast bowling hopefuls who started out bowling at 140 kmph and over the years were reduced to sending down the ball at 125 kmph. For this, it is imperative that he should be encouraged to bowl fast.
All other aspects of pace bowling - line and length, seam and swing and variety - will fall into place in time and with experience. Aaron has a couple of other things going for him as well. He has an admirable action right from the smooth run-up to the point of delivery and follow through. This has probably come from the teenage years he spent at the MRF Pace Academy in Chennai.
He also has an unflappable temperament and a never-say-die attitude - essential qualities for a fast bowler. Of course he also has other qualities of a fast bowler too - like running through the tail. Any good fast bowler should be able to cut through the bottom order and on his ODI debut at Mumbai, the manner in which he bowled Scott Borthwick, Stuart Meaker and Tim Bresnan with deliveries the batsmen knew nothing about confirmed that here was a fast bowler ready for bigger things.
And again in the next game at Kolkata, it was his dismissal of Alastair Cook, whom he bowled with a real snorter, that triggered off the collapse that saw England slide from 129 for no loss to 176 all out and hurtle from a winning position to a 95-run defeat.
Despite all this, there remain lingering doubts whether Aaron enjoys Dhoni's confidence. For one thing, despite what he had achieved just a couple of days earlier, he was brought on as fourth change for the Kolkata game. Secondly, his 'reward' for bowling Cook and providing the all important breakthrough was to be taken off and he did not bowl again. Aaron sent down just three overs while even a non-regular bowler like Manoj Tiwari was given five.
This is no way to encourage the brightest fast bowling talent in the country. In a newspaper interview a couple of months back after he was selected to replace the injured Ishant Sharma for the limited overs games in England, Aaron made it clear that he loved bowling fast. "This is my strength and I will never compromise on my pace," he said.
Then he added tongue in cheek, "And it is a lot of fun to hit batsmen on the head." An unlikely attitude for an Indian bowler but one that could take him far on the international stage. Aaron has arrived with a bang and though these are early days yet, it can safely be predicted that in future the bangs will be louder and heard all over the cricketing world. If he remains fit and is handled well by the captain and the selectors, there is no limit to which he can reach.