India in Australia 2011-12 December 4, 2011

Who will replace Praveen for the Australia tour?

Irfan Pathan has the best Ranji form, Vinay Kumar has been succeeding in ODIs, while Abhimanyu Mithun has pace and age on his side

An injury to Praveen Kumar has left an empty slot for another seam bowler in India's Test squad for their tour of Australia. ESPNcricinfo looks at the prospects of the three bowlers who are most likely to figure in the selectors' discussions, to be held on Monday.

Irfan Pathan

It has been over three years since Irfan Pathan played a Test for India, and two since he slipped off the international scene. Lack of pace and penetration were two of the reasons he was dropped, and other seamers took his place. His performances in this Ranji Trophy season, however, have revived his chances of playing for India. He is currently the leading wicket-taker in the Elite division, with 21 wickets in four matches for Baroda, including five-wicket hauls in three consecutive matches.

The selectors could be looking to replace Praveen with a bowler of similar pace and swing to compliment the faster Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron. Irfan's abilities as a batsman also give him the edge, though his bowling form alone may be enough to merit selection. According to Sanath Kumar, the Baroda coach, Irfan seems to have got his bite back, and it shows in his body language.

"He's improving in every game. He is now getting his inswing back in a big way and he's getting the ball to swing away as well," Kumar told ESPNcricinfo. "His pace and accuracy have also improved."

Speed was never Irfan's forte and in the years since his Test debut, on the 2003-04 tour of Australia, he dropped a yard or two of pace. Sanath Kumar said Irfan's pace was now up a notch and he had developed the stamina to bowl longer spells.

"He has been bowling eight-nine over spells regularly. In a day he's been bowling around 25 overs, which is quite impressive for a fast bowler. His strength is with the new ball."

Irfan got his groove back, Kumar said, due to some technical changes. "We've worked on his loading. He used to load high and behind his body. That used to put a lot of strain on his back, which affected his balance and consequently his accuracy. We also worked on his wrist position and he's now able to swing the ball late. Overall, he appears more confident."

Irfan's chances of going to Australia will be helped by the fact that he is a left-arm bowler, something India may need if Zaheer Khan breaks down again. Experience in Australia and his Ranji form give Irfan his best chance of breaking into the national team since 2009.

Vinay Kumar

Vinay Kumar is one of two Karnataka bowlers - Abhimanyu Mithun is the other - competing for the slot vacated by Praveen. Vinay has been a regular in India's one-day plans but is yet to play a Test. He was not selected for the home Tests versus West Indies, with the selectors preferring to experiment with young quicks capable of bowling over 140kph consistently. Like Irfan, Vinay is not express and instead relies on swing and his legcutter. He has eight wickets from three Ranji Trophy games this season, with a best of 4 for 104, against Mumbai. His figures may not even closely match Irfan's but he belongs to a younger clutch of bowlers being tried out by the selectors, and has fairly satisfying numbers in India's two home ODI series since the World Cup.

He has the backing of his Karnataka team-mate Robin Uthappa, to make the trip. "Vinay has been doing really well for himself over the last couple of years. In the last game he played for India (at Vizag) he showed a lot of maturity," Uthappa told ESPNcricinfo. "He's someone who I've always thought is better in the longer version. He gets movement off the wicket, he's a very good new ball bowler and I think he could be the right replacement."

Vinay had 4 for 30 against England in Delhi, and 2 for 43 against West Indies in Visakhapatnam, where he got the new ball to move and trouble the top order. Whether or not the selectors use the one-dayers as a yardstick for potential Test success will be known on Monday. Their choice should depend on the attributes they are looking for - pace v swing - with the aim being to fly out a varied seam attack capable of succeeding on Australian pitches.

Abhimanyu Mithun

If the selectors show a greater inclination towards pace, then Abhimanyu Mithun has the edge over the other two. He is the least experienced of the three, in terms of first-class matches played, but has more Test experience, however limited, than Vinay, and age on his side when compared to Irfan. Mithun, who burst onto the domestic scene two seasons ago, is yet to find his feet at the highest level. His opportunities so far have been limited to four Tests.

He was picked for the post-World Cup tour of the West Indies after Zaheer Khan and Sreesanth pulled out injured. He played the Barbados Test and took three wickets, but was omitted for the England tour and the home Tests against West Indies. He has 10 wickets in three matches in this Ranji season and was named as Praveen's replacement for the ongoing ODIs against West Indies. If there are long-term plans for him to be a Test bowler, this may be a good tour for him to go on, even if he does not get a Test.

Uthappa feels that Mithun's lack of experience could be a factor. "Mithun is young and improving," Uthappa said. "He's worked under Vinay and he's got some inputs from him. If I were to pick one of the two, I'd pick Vinay because he's a better thinker as a bowler."

Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on December 5, 2011, 17:12 GMT

    If a 'holidaying' R.P.Singh could be given a chance in England, why not try out an in-form Irfan who has nothing to lose and everything to gain. More over, we never know what sort of a shape Zaheer is in, if he pulls up after bowling a few overs at the WACA never to return for the rest of the series, the team will be in deep trouble similar to what happened in England. India should go in with Ishant and Zaheer (or Irfan) and the spin twins, Ojha and Ashwin atleast in adelaide and Sydney. Umesh Yadav could replace a spinner in the other two seamer friendly pitches.

  • Dummy4 on December 5, 2011, 17:11 GMT

    irfan, always, has given his best in Oz. Last time india won in Oz was in Perth test 2008, just because of Pathan's Man Of The Match performance. He is best option for Oz tour. Good wishes to him.

  • Dummy4 on December 5, 2011, 17:07 GMT

    irfan is the best option

  • Dummy4 on December 5, 2011, 16:59 GMT

    Irfan Pathan....... He is the man the selectors shud go for.... Aussies will fear him more than he other two.....

  • Najim on December 5, 2011, 16:58 GMT

    Dhoni must be rested (throw out from the test).. automaticaly Irfan will be select in Indian squad.. :)

  • Dummy4 on December 5, 2011, 16:37 GMT

    LOL,, obvious it shuold be irfan .........When Irfan Pathan first made his entry into the international arena, he was regarded as the best swing bowler to have played for India since Kapil Dev. He came to the national side straight from the Under-19 arena and proved the selectors right with spirited performances.

    As a bowler, Pathan concentrates not only on swing but also is game to keep learning new tricks. He manages to swing the new ball as well as the old ball. The Baroda born talent had done quite a bit with the willow as well.

    Within a couple of years in international cricket, he was considered as India's answer to the drought of all-rounder. But the successful initial years were followed by a few flop series in 2005, which saw the left-hander being dropped from the India squad. Pathan was recalled to the Indian team for World Twenty20 in 2007, and he did not disappoint as he clinched 10 wickets at an impressive average of 14.90.

  • Dummy4 on December 5, 2011, 16:33 GMT

    has to be Irfan. Rearing to go. Has experience and is fit.

  • kan on December 5, 2011, 16:05 GMT

    Irfan pathan should be picked, no point in picking Vinay or Mithun, they won't get a game. with Irfan he might disappoint or he would run through the side and be a match winner, but with Vinay or Mithun even at their best they can't get more than 2 wickets with their potential, so my vote is fully with Irfan pathan

  • kan on December 5, 2011, 16:03 GMT

    Irfan pathan is the best pick, he is in some sort of form, if he is picked now in the Indian team he might find his best form from the past, if not picked he will get lost for ever, and India would lose their best allroundrer after Kapil Dev

  • Dummy4 on December 5, 2011, 15:55 GMT

    Mithun has been selcted ..... confirmd newz

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