India's bowling coach upbeat despite struggle
India's bowling coach Joe Dawes believes the group is on the right track, despite its ineffectiveness in the ongoing Kolkata Test against England, and is hopeful of building a "big pool to choose from" in the future. Dawes also said Zaheer Khan has the "best wrist in cricket" and was among the top six bowlers in international cricket.
The BCCI appointed Dawes, who is from Queensland, as bowling coach in February, during India's 0-4 Test defeat in Australia. India began their home season by beating New Zealand 2-0, but they have struggled against England. Alastair Cook's team scored 406 in the second innings in Ahmedabad, 413 in the first innings of their ten-wicket win in Mumbai, and are currently amassing a huge first-innings score in Kolkata.
"I've been in this job nine months and it's been challenging. I believe that we're making progress, although the results in this series say otherwise," Dawes told bcci.tv. "I've spoken to the new selection committee about identifying a number of bowlers who we can invest on. This morning we sat down and made a rough list of bowlers for the T20s and ODIs to get things in place for them so that when they get into the team they're ready. We have a close eye on the Ranji Trophy to look out for the guys who put their hands up so we can have a few more bowlers.
"We've spoken a lot about patience as a group. The two spinners [R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha] are quite young - they've only played a dozen Tests or so - and they're still learning their craft at the moment. That's why they have struggled with their consistency and we have talked about that. They're gaining good education of the game at the moment and they're working hard at their game. We're improving and getting to where we want to be."
While India's spinners have not been effective against England after the first Test, their fast bowlers also struggled. India lost Umesh Yadav to a back injury after Ahmedabad and Varun Aaron, Sreesanth, Praveen Kumar, Munaf Patel and Irfan Pathan are among the reserves injured. Zaheer, the leader of India's attack, has taken only three wickets at an average of more than 60. Dawes, however, remained confident of Zaheer's form and fitness.
"We've had this joke going around in the change room that Zak's back. I thought he wasn't at his best against New Zealand and he'll be the first to admit that. But he's gone back and worked hard. He's run himself into a bit of nick with his fitness and has started to get the ball through with some pace and get it to nip back. I truly believe that the time is not far away when he starts getting the wickets that he deserves.
"You watch the ball come out of his hand from purely technical point of view and it's just beautiful. He keeps the seam up and hits the seam all the time, every time. He's not as young as he once was and so he's probably not as quick as well. Considering the conditions he has to bowl in most of the times, in the subcontinent, he's got to be among the top six bowlers in the world today."
Having played three specialist spinners in the Mumbai Test, India reverted to the two-seamer strategy for Kolkata and picked Ishant Sharma, who hadn't played international cricket since January. "He [Ishant] bowled in a Test match today after a long time and I thought he did pretty well. He was unlucky not to get a wicket," Dawes said after the first day in Kolkata. "He has worked hard to come back from his injury and you can see the changes in his action. He's much taller now and doesn't fall over while angling the ball in. The next step is to give him a consistent outswinger and that's coming well.
"The plus with him is that he's still a very young man and he's already played 45 Test matches; he's an experienced cricketer. He's now only 24 and his body will learn to endure the rigours of fast bowling with time and he'll only get better from here."
Umesh was the best fast bowler on show in Ahmedabad, bowling quick and getting the old ball to swing, and Dawes was pleased with the progress Umesh had made since the New Zealand series. "I'm happy with where he's going; disappointing for him to be injured but we have things in mind to put in place for him when he comes back; just tweak his action a little bit more and continue to help the young bloke get stronger and fitter."