England v India, 4th npower Test, The Oval, 1st day

RP Singh's selection reflects India's tragicomic series

How does a bowler who hasn't played for India for two years, and has had no first-class cricket since January, get in the side ahead of someone who was a big part of India's World Cup-winning campaign?

Nagraj Gollapudi at The Oval

August 18, 2011

Comments: 158 | Text size: A | A

RP Singh bowls on his return to Test cricket, England v India, 4th Test, The Oval, 1st day, August 18, 2011
RP Singh did not beat the outside edge once on the first morning at The Oval © Associated Press
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If any proof was needed that this England series is turning out to be a tragicomic one for India, it came when RP Singh was told at the very last minute to strip off his training gear, tie his bootlaces and rush onto the field at The Oval to deliver the first over of the final Test. Now remember, this is RP Singh, a man who played his last Test on a flat track at Motera in 2008. The last time he bowled in a first-class match was in the Duleep Trophy for Central Zone versus South Zone, between January 26-29, where he got just three wickets in the 522-run defeat. This was a bowler who India had pulled out of cold storage, once the full extent of Zaheer Khan's injury was revealed, a bowler who was re-entering the Test arena on the back of delivering 50 overs in 14 IPL matches.

As RP Singh sprayed five out of his first six deliveries onto, or sometimes behind, England's openers' pads, at a pace that made it inappropriate to term him a fast bowler, people began to wonder if this was joke. On match-day eve, MS Dhoni said India were not desperate, or thinking about winning or avoiding defeat at any cost. The way they started today, it seemed they were desperate to avoid playing at any cost.

At the end of the day, RP Singh revealed that Praveen Kumar had pulled out of the Test at the last possible minute. There was nothing in the morning warm-up sessions that suggested RP Singh would play; he was seen striding in delicately, delivering harmless punches at VVS Laxman in the nets. In fact, on the scorecards printed by the ECB, P Kumar was listed as No. 9 under the India column.

"This morning after the warm-up when PK [Praveen] said he was not fit for the match, that is when the coach [Duncan Fletcher] came to me and told me I was playing," RP Singh said.

He did not deny that he was "nervous". Fair enough. But then he also said that "gradually I got my line and length back". The two spells he bowled in the little play possible today read: 7-2-19-0 from the Vauxhall End and then 3-1-5-0 from the Pavilion End. Economical, yes, but in conditions that were overcast and with a new ball in hand, he failed to beat the outside edge even once. At the media conference, he said that between his last trip to England in 2007, a series where he kept the England batsmen on their toes in the company of Zaheer Khan, and now he had equipped himself with an additional weapon - swinging the ball in to the left-handers. But today there was not one ball that he could bend in past the defence of Andrew Strauss or Alistair Cook.

Despite his lack of first-class outings in recent times, and looking clearly rust at The Oval, RP Singh said he was match-fit. "I played the IPL and a few club matches. In India, the domestic four-day season is between September and March but I played a few one-day games and the IPL so I am fit for these matches."

RP Singh may come in for some criticism for his insipid performance on the first day, but can you really blame a bowler who has been struggling with form and fitness issues in the last few years for being ineffective? The big question is why and how did he become Zaheer's replacement. Was it more out of hope than belief that the selectors picked him. Were they simply thinking about the fact that RP Singh had done so well during the victorious 2007 series and not about his recent performances? Importantly, why does Munaf Patel, a more permanent member of the India squad in the recent past, and a smart bowler who was a critical part of the World Cup-winning team, continue to warm the bench? What sort of inference does he derive when a bowler who has not featured for India in two years is played ahead of him?

These and many other burning questions will continue to be asked in the coming days and weeks.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by   on (August 19, 2011, 18:45 GMT)

It is unfortunate and painful that opponent started setting their new records in all aspects against us. What happened to our bowlers? They don't have any impact on them. We don't have any quality bowlers like Broad, Anderson or Bresnan to play in England condition. I don't think we've only Zaheer Khan. We've many and it is the responsibility of the selectors to bring up players to play in any condition. My question - If Munaf Patil is suitable for English condition means why they selected that poor guy and given him hope? It is better to select R.P.Singh at the time of announcement. How long we are going to drag with aged guys? (No doubt, with them we've won lot of series and they've very good batting record) Now what happened? With commanding English team they all failed to prove their ability which they had in the past. Due to much responsibility, not playing their own game. Age is the main factor. We've a huge population with cricket as a passion, No doubt we've enough.

Posted by LokuMahaththaya on (August 19, 2011, 18:42 GMT)

problem is India doesn't have international level quicker pace bowlers. BCCI is producing players for IPL not for international level. IPL is another kind of improved gully cricket, Indian team is used to IPLnow, they dont understand Int Test cricket, so it is very hard to survive over 20 overs for them. Thats the real truth. Also a bowler can not ball more than 4 overs in a good rhythm. That's the truth, you guys have to accept that.

If this happened continually, international cricket standard will diminish from India little by little. Sorry guys.

Posted by Rajesh. on (August 19, 2011, 18:37 GMT)

Seems like India are in for another whipping....... but there is something they can take heart from :- At least no one can say anymore "India hardly looks like the Number One Test Team in the World"

Posted by LokuMahaththaya on (August 19, 2011, 18:36 GMT)

problem is India doesn't have international level quicker pace bowlers. BCCI is producing players for IPL not for international level. IPL is another kind of improved gully cricket, Indian team is used to IPLnow, they dont understand Int Test cricket, so it is very hard to survive over 20 overs for them. Thats the real truth. Also a bowler can not ball more than 4 overs in a good rhythm. That's the truth, you guys have to accept that.

If this happened continually, international cricket standard will diminish from India little by little. Sorry guys.

Posted by rsurya on (August 19, 2011, 18:20 GMT)

without pace nothing going to be solved, we can hope for some dhoni's lucky wins and no more than that. Winning is Important is a bad attitude and will not stand in a long term. our team is well known for funny gambling like piyush chawla, rp singh, and others. there is some meaning in crying for irfan bcoz atleast he shows some entertainment in batting. BETTER KEEP A WALK-IN INTERVIEW FOR FAST BOWLERS BEFORE BCCI (eligibility 150+ kmph). bcoz no player in India can bowl 150 mark when he plays all the domestic cricket which is a mandatory token.

Posted by   on (August 19, 2011, 18:18 GMT)

It doesn't matter who India put in their bowling attack is simply poor. Their bowlers will struggle to get a game in an English county game. Simply too slow. They need someone who can touch 90mph, like Pakistan seem to find on a regular basis.

Posted by Pritt32 on (August 19, 2011, 17:23 GMT)

Everything is looking painfully grim for the Indian team. India has the most the mediocre bowling attack in international cricket. Bell and Pietersen scoring big individual hundreds highlights how concerning India's bowling attack is. It cannot go on like this, as it is just plain awful to watch. India needs to urgently to invest in new bowlers and a few batmen, as their batting looking ragged and fragile. The England tour offered so much promise and expectations, but very club level cricket and a one-sided affair. There is a lot of work for the Indian cricket to do, as the team is in very poor shape which is upsetting for Indian fans to watch. I hope the selector realise the seriousness of this and address the issue immediately, otherwise the Australian tour will head the similar painful direction.

Posted by aa61761 on (August 19, 2011, 17:13 GMT)

Everyone missed the point. RP Singh is not the replacement for Zaheer Khan, he is replacing Bhajji. RP is the new fast spinner for India. RP will demolishes some thing in this Test - England or India, and will be remembered as the greatest come back bowler may be in his own dreams or Dhoni will endup in a mental institution for selecting RP.

Posted by   on (August 19, 2011, 16:41 GMT)

its was not surprise as per as my oipinon as when Rp came to team i knew he will play in place of munaf other player who will get more chance if he scores 5 runs in next 10 test will raina so that how our teams plays bad luck hope they will not drop to more down in ranking .....com on guys show more proudness of being no 1 test team (x)

Posted by jsnaurvi on (August 19, 2011, 16:22 GMT)

I dont understand the mind set of Selectors, why not they try good pace bowlers like Jaidev, Umesh, Varun and Deepak in Conditions favourable for pacers.. instead they will try them on Indian wickets where there is nothing to perform.. and some of my friends still cry for Irfan, if they watched his performance in IPL i think they should not have supported him and moreover Munaf have same pace as parveen and in first 3 test the result is in front of us, so its better to have alll 3 quick in team and Ishant and Shree should perform like they did in IPL..

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