Thirteen-Test home season 'wonderful opportunity' for India's quicks - Srinath
Former Indian fast bowler Javagal Srinath has urged India's fast bowlers to embrace the challenge of "adverse conditions" over the next few months, when the team plays 13 Test matches at home. Srinath, who claimed 236 wickets in a 67-Test career, said this unusually busy home season was a "boon" for India's core group of fast bowlers as it presents a rare opportunity to develop their skills.
"By the end of these 13 Test matches, you can become a completely transformed bowler," Srinath told ESPNcricinfo. "Where will you get this opportunity? Normally you get three-four Tests, then a break, then you play ODIs, and T20s have come in now, then another break and you come in for the Test matches. The ball is different, the conditions are different, so again you have to come back and bowl and get back into the rhythm.
"Here, every month you have a couple of Test matches which means you don't have to practice, you just have to bowl well in the Test matches. Every ball bowled in a Test match is a well-thought-out ball, you don't take it lightly. That's where the learning happens, and you try to understand a batsman in a much better sense. You go deeper into a batsman's mindset, you start thinking... Psychologically you will be far better when you start thinking every ball.
"I think Test matches bring more depth in your own cricket. The body becomes stronger with that much bowling, the right kind of muscles will start developing, so you have to maintain yourself. It is about doing the right kind of gym, what kind of work you have done in the off season, all those things do matter. Your mindset should be very positive that this is a great opportunity and I want to make the best of it. Its not about sustaining yourself, its about going for a win every time.
"Adverse conditions are bound to be there. There are wickets which are slower. But the balls that are used in India, they do reverse. You get more chances and you are more effective when the ball is older, so I think that's another skill you need to add on to your bowling. Sometimes flat wickets can be a little dampening [for the spirit] but I feel it's a wonderful opportunity to play 13 Test matches in a season."
India fielded Umesh Yadav and Mohammad Shami as their two frontline fast bowlers for the first of the 13 Tests this season, which is currently underway in Kanpur. Two other fast bowlers were part of the squad - Ishant Sharma, who would have likely been the first choice in the XI, was forced to withdraw from the squad after contracting chikungunya. Bhuvneswar Kumar, who claimed match figures of 6 for 46 in India's win in the St Lucia Test in the West Indies last month, was benched.
According to Srinath, with it being unlikely that India will add another seamer to the playing XI in the upcoming home Tests, the mindset of the incumbent bowlers should be to try and earn selection for each of the Tests over the season and not concern themselves with the nature of the tracks on offer.
"What is better conditions, can you really prepare a fast track which will last five days in India?" Srinath said. "Your strength is spin, you have to blend these two, spin and pace, together. Winning Test matches is important, so for that you need to reverse engineer your side accordingly. These fast bowlers who are there at the top, their mindset should be they need to play all the 13 Test matches. If you play one or two and are out, then the next guy plays a few and is out, that intermittent presence will not help the team at all because you are not doing any justice to your own talent, you lose rhythm very quickly, you just come and fill in overs - that's not what you want. If two bowlers play all 13 Test matches, you see them at the end of it, they will be a different class altogether.
"If you sit in the dressing room thinking that the pitch is slow and get into the negative frame of mind, it won't help. You are young, your body is keen to do a lot of hard work, put it to work and make sure you bowl every ball. Just don't go and fill in numbers there, be a part of the collective bowling unit and chart the batsmen out."
The absence of a specialist bowling coach among India's coaching staff is something that has come under some scrutiny of late. While Sanjay Bangar and R Sridhar are batting and fielding coach respectively, there is no one in charge of the bowlers. Srinath laughed off any concerns on that front, insisting that in head coach Anil Kumble, the leading wicket-taker in India's Test history, there is all the expertise the bowlers need.
"Don't worry about it, Anil will sort it out," he said. "He has tremendous knowledge about the game, we don't have to look anywhere else, just go talk to him, he knows what to do."
Asked whether he himself could be a contender for the role, Srinath offered a straight bat. "I am happy doing my match refereeing at the moment."
Gaurav Kalra is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo. @gauravkalra75