Vengsarkar makes his pitch for bowling coach
After a year of wishful thinking, India's bowlers may finally get what they want: a bowling coach. On Friday, Dilip Vengsarkar, the chairman of selectors, said he had asked the BCCI for a coach and Venkatapathy Raju, the South Zone selector told Cricinfo that a bowling coach could assist in the development of India's crop of promising fast bowlers.
And Venkatesh Prasad, a former India fast bowler and one of those in line to take up the job, has said that only a bowling coach can help take those youngsters up to the next level.
Vengsarkar's statement, in Kolkata, will attract attention because Team India coach Greg Chappell has so far not expressed his keenness for a bowling coach. Ian Frazer, the biomechanics expert, doubles up with bowling duties - leaving India lagging behind other top teams. Troy Cooley attained legendary status for helping England regain the Ashes last year, after which he's moved back to Australia and repeated his success; Vincent Barnes has fine-tuned South Africa's pace-bowling machine and Waqar Younis and Kevin Shine have been performing the role in Pakistan and England respectively.
That seems to have been reflected in India's recent one-day matches. Even in South Africa, the bowlers have had the opposition on the ropes with early strikes, only to let them off the hook at the death. It's not a new problem: In 80 innings since the last World Cup, India have conceded 4358 runs between the 41st and 50th overs.
"You cannot mess around with technique at the highest level", Prasad told Cricinfo today, "but yes, if a bowler is going through a prolonged bad patch, has recurring injuries or is unable to bowl at the right areas then definitely a bowling coach can help with the technique, the action and other related areas."
Prasad - who has completed the Level III coaching program at the National Cricket Academy and with the ECB in England - had declared his interest in the job last year but, when no coaching stint came about, he went on to become the Karnataka coach. It's time well spent, he says. "The stint [with Karnataka] has definitely helped me improve my coaching skills. If the board offers the position, I will be more than willing to take it up."
The ball is now in the BCCI's court. Its secretary, Niranjan Shah, has been quoted in The Times of India as saying that there will be no knee-jerk reaction to the results in South Africa, a process will be followed.
Candidates for the job: (in no particular order)
Venkatesh Prasad: Currently coaching Karnataka, Prasad had shown an interest in the job last year. Having acquired an advanced coaching certificate from England, he's revealed that he was keen to work with the new generation of Indian pace bowlers.
Javagal Srinath: Prasad has probably become a frontrunner by default. His state-mate Javagal Srinath, with whom he forged a successful new-ball pairing in the '90s, would have probably got the job if not for his match-referee duties in the forthcoming Sri Lanka v New Zealand series. Srinath has been critical of the lack of guidance for India's current crop of fast bowlers. The fact that he's overseen the development of bowlers like Zaheer Khan and Ajit Agarkar makes him the best candidate for the job.
Paras Mhambrey: Currently coaching the Bengal state side, Mhambrey has earned a reputation as an excellent bowling coach. His knowledge of biomechanics - especially with relation to Indian bowling - and his track record as a hard-as-nails coach make him an outside candidate. Last year, he took over a Bengal side that had just escaped relegation, galvanised them into a fighting unit and guided them to the runner-up spot. His past experiences under Frank Tyson, the former England fast bowler, and his assistance to John Wright during an India camp in 2003 add to an impressive resume.
Bruce Reid: Hampshire's bowling coach for the past three seasons, Reid may be the best option, considering his past successes with India's bowlers. He was roped in during India's epic tour to Australia in 2003-04 and played a vital behind-the-scenes role in the drawn rubber. Whether he's approached again, and whether he'll be willing to forgo his other commitments remains to be seen.
Apart from these three, Fanie de Villiers, the former South African fast bowler, has expressed an interest in coaching India's fast bowlers, especially on their ongoing tour in the Southern Cape. Sarfraz Nawaz, the former Pakistani swing merchant who worked with the Delhi fast bowlers recently, has said he was open to the offer.
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan contributed to this article
Sriram Veera is editorial assistant of Cricinfo