India news January 12, 2015

Be more flexible with overseas Test XIs, says Kumble

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Anil Kumble: 'If your 20 wickets are going to come with two spinners and two fast bowlers, so be it. If it comes with three spinners and one fast bowler so be it' © Getty Images

Anil Kumble, the former India captain, has said that while the team has quality bowlers, their progress has to be monitored season by season, and there has to be a flexible approach to selecting XIs when on tour.

The performance of the Indian bowlers on the recent tour to Australia has come in for severe criticism, and Kumble said "some portion of the criticism is justified", but added that the ability of bowlers to adjust to the longest format has to be taken into account when selecting squads.

Speaking to ESPNcricinfo, Kumble, India's highest wicket-taker in Test and ODI cricket, said: "We have the quality of bowlers, it's just trying to see who can adjust to the Test format and then choosing your best four bowlers who you think can pick up 20 wickets, that's also been an issue."

The question that was always raised on the eve of a Test match was simple, he said - how are you going to get 20 wickets? But now, at times, the answer is made complicated, he said: "We have gone into this theory of three seamers and one spinner the moment we sit on an aircraft which travels more than seven hours - that's the mindset… If your 20 wickets are going to come with two spinners and two fast bowlers, so be it. If it comes with three spinners and one fast bowler so be it."

He cited the example of the Adelaide Test, where on a track known to favour the batsmen and assist spinners from halfway through the Test, India went in with a single spinner - debutant, Karn Sharma. Kumble asked, "So who got wickets for Australia then? If you look at the top two bowlers, it was one spinner and one fast bowler." Australian off-spinner Nathan Lyon was the series' top wicket-taker with 23 wickets.

He said that in the last series Australia played before the India tour, "although the conditions were different… two unknown spinners won the series for Pakistan. Without Michael Clarke their batting line up was inexperienced."

The surfeit of short-form cricket, both ODIs and Twenty20s, may have led to the Indian bowlers "not being that disciplined in their approach to bowling when it comes to Test cricket", Kumble said. In ODIs and T20s, "you get away with that. You are constantly thinking of pre-empting a batsman because you think he will play this shot - that's what you do in one-day cricket. You are always guessing and trying to out-guess the batsman. In Test cricket you need to bowl line and length - it is that simple - and keep repeating the same thing."

He said, "That will only come with playing more of this format, and that will only come with what kind of an approach [you have] prior to heading off [on tour]. It's the simple thing that needs to be considered." "Test cricket is all about building pressure and how you can sustain it, the longer you can sustain the pressure, the more successful you can be," he said.

Modern batsmen, he pointed out, were also playing a large quantity of limited-overs cricket. "Generally today's batsmen tend to look for runs, [far] more than what it used to be maybe five, ten years ago. That's the kind of cricket that the batsmen are used to playing - ODIs, T20…" Given the generally batting friendly pitches around the world, Kumble said, "The trend is that disciplined bowlers tend to get you wickets… The more disciplined you are with the line and length you will keep the runs down and that is the best way to get wickets because generally speaking, it's [the scoring rate] been more than four runs an over."

Indian bowlers, he said, needed to be their own leaders and "not look over their shoulder". Most of India's bowlers have played a sizeable amount of cricket, "so they need to start looking at themselves as the leader of the pack." Getting the bowlers to be "self-sufficient" was important, he said. "You can't be looking over your shoulder and ask which ball should I bowl, what field should I set? At the end of the day you know what balls to bowl and what fields to set, you have to be your own captain, you can't be saying 'Okay, set the field and tell me where to bowl and I will bowl'. That's not how we play cricket. You have to be your own leader."

He said the BCCI and team management need to "monitor its 20 best bowlers. It is just a matter of managing the top 20 bowlers and trying to follow them during the course of their season, whether they are playing Ranji Trophy or IPL or Test cricket." It is a suggestion that Kumble had made to the BCCI in the past, but there is no indication that the suggestion has been followed through. "At home they seem fine, they are pretty used to the conditions, but generally overseas you need to be stronger."

The Indian bowling attack for Test cricket overseas, Kumble said, can be built by studying which of the bowlers have the capacity to be stronger when playing long-form cricket overseas. "Not physically stronger, but bowling-wise stronger. People tend to mis-interpret, strength by saying I need to spend time in the gym. That's not strength. You need to sustain yourself for longer when on tour. How long can you bowl? How effective you are in your last spell, whether you are a spinner or a fast bowler. That's what matters in the end."

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Naresh on January 19, 2015, 10:31 GMT

    Four bowlers in a test match means you can trust four to take 10 wickets in an innings. Five means you are trying to spread the load and get better, fresher bowlers to bowl. Karn Sharma was thrown into the deep end - i dont see him playing again after this. Spinners in the domestic matches are not getting enough overs under their belt. So our spinners are becoming short spell bowlers. We should organize several A-tours and groom these players like Karn Sharma before sending them out. I agree with @jose why not use past masters to train the players. We stand to lose the past masters skills from a forgotten era.

  • Dummy4 on January 17, 2015, 7:50 GMT

    Kumble has been known as a thinking cricketer for this very reason - his analysis appears spot on.

  • Arunlal on January 15, 2015, 6:15 GMT

    India should have a pair or three players of same kind so that to implement a rotational policy. Bhuvi, Vinay kumar and Sandeep Sharma are of same type baring consistency. Same way Ishanth, Pankaj and Umesh. If we can rotate them in between a lengthy series, we can be able to know each one's potential. Also they must give a fair enough chances to prove. Atlease after WC we need to sort out the bowling issues. For Seamer friendly pitches we need to find 2-3 bowlers with a speed of 135-140. Those who performed in Ranji trophy with pace and consistency were D Shivkumar of Andhra and SB Wagh of Vidharba. Both can be tried on A tours to test their potential. SN Thakur, Rush Kalaria, Samad Fallah and Basant Mohanty are new talents who started knocking doors to higher level whereas Vinay Kumar, Pankaj singh and Rishi Dhawan makes Selectors think twice on bowling options. They can be tried in place of Bhuvi, Ishanth and Shami by resting them for a series or two, and will not perform worser..

  • Dummy4 on January 15, 2015, 5:22 GMT

    In Bowling dept also we need to experiment more guys to decide on who all have potential and also can rotate to avoid injuries. Our current best bowlers are performing worse than a new comer so experimenting a new comer on an entire series won't harm the team anyway. Whatever the performance is, a new comer need to give chances atleast 3 ODI's or 2 Tests in a row. Pankaj Singh and Vinay Kumar been consistent performers in domestic level whereas young talents need to be trained better to fit international scene. Our team should have right combination to trouble any team even when they are not at their best. For that we should have left-right combination. Out of 7 bowler slot we must include atleast 3 left handed bowlers with good rhythm. After WC15 give rest to Bhuvi, Shami,Aaron, Ishanth and Umesh and trying new combination will do good to indian team.There won't be issues in batting department as test batsmen except Kohli, Rayudu and Rahane are not in WC team.

  • Dummy4 on January 14, 2015, 16:20 GMT

    Openers:Rahul, Vijay, Rohit

    Middle order: Kohli,Rayudu, Tiwary, Rahane, Pujara

    wk : Ojha

    Seamers- Right handed: Rishi Dhawan,Pankaj singh,Vinay Kumar, Anureet Singh, Ashish Reddy, Basant Mohanty, SN Thakur Seamers - Left Handed : S wagh, S Fallah, Rush Kalaria Spinners- Ashwin, Karn, Kuldeep, Axar

  • Dummy4 on January 14, 2015, 16:20 GMT

    Indian team performed far better than previous away series. Vijay and Rahane cemented their place while Rahul made use of the oppurtunity at some level. But still some of our batting positions are yet to fill with solid personalities. Even though Rohit replaced out of form Pujara, he has not yet made count of that oppurtunity as he did in ODI's. Same is the case on KL Rahul. Even though he scored a century the way he got out on 3 innings is not expected from a batsmen with good technique. Also Raina and Saha wasted golden oppurtunities to get back to the test team. With bowling department not chipping well on most of the occasions,and chases been left for tailenders in batting I would prefer Raina be replaced with top order batsman with a bit of bowling skills and Saha with a better wicket keeper batsmen. Main contenders for test level are Rayudu, Tiwary and Naman Ojha.If Rayudu or Ojha can fill the Keeper's slot, then Rahul can also help on it when they are exposed.

  • Sasidharan on January 14, 2015, 15:26 GMT

    Not sure how everyone is judging Ishant/Ashwin and think they r bad. I feel they r as good as any decent bowlers. Don't you guys know that bowlers also work in pairs, just like batsman do. Haven't you heard, when one batsman is scoring at a very less strike rate, the pressure is on the other batsman to score n keep up the team RR. Same applies to bowlers. I read someone said Ishant was economical but not threatening, doesn't make sense. When Aus batsman were scoring at 10RPO & Ishant came & bowled 2 maidens, why, because the batsman found him threatening and didn't want to score of him. The problem is scoring was free at the other end, which didn't make Aus batsman try and score of Ishant/Ashwin. Kumble hit the nail on the head, you don't want to pick bowlers on conditions expected, but pick you best 4/5 bowlers. Good eg. was the 1st test. Another eg. is 1st test in England, where India didn't win by swing, but bouncers, by who, Indias best bowler Ishant, nothing to do with conditions.

  • GP on January 14, 2015, 14:48 GMT

    A tangent solution is setting up a Tiered structure where players playing Test get grade A remuneration, ODIs Grade B and T20' Grade C. We all know the shorter format is preferred for its glamour and quick money. So if the Board ensures that Test players come out fairly prosperous (if not better, as only the TEST benchmark STATUS), this will ensure atleast 2-3 breed of players.

    By ensuring player exclusivity to each format, the Board not only ensures a fitter and competitive team, it pushes longevity into the game by giving right talent the right platform over a sustained period. This will make all the formats even more cherishable.

    Has any board implemented this model so far completely. Perhaps not. But here is the opportunity for BCCI to actually be the front runners in 'atleast' something. Sometimes I feel ashamed how far behind our presentation, use of technology and lul('PK' style) our commentary is.

    Time for revolution, maybe !!

  • siddharth on January 14, 2015, 11:39 GMT

    @usernames - i agree patience is the key..but u really think with the amount of cricket these bowlers are playing they have it in them to give their 100% when it really matters? the situation is crying out loud for different bowlers for different formats..many teams are following that so whats stopping us ? in the shorter format we rely heavily on our batsman..u might as well give fringe bowlers permanent in the side with the likes of shami ishant and bhuvi playing only tests..get aaron vinay kumar dinda for t20s and odis..anil kumble u know the problems and am pretty sure even the coaches do..do they really work on the problems? i mean seriously there was no improvement in the entire series..the bowling was pretty much the same throughout- FLAT!!

  • Madhusudhan on January 13, 2015, 18:32 GMT

    Anil Sir, these Indians are only fit to play IPL and useless to play test cricket. They have losed a lot of series in home and overseas, now time is up either India should stop ;laying test cricket or a separate team should be groomed to play only test cricket in all conditions.