Mumbai v Rest of India, Irani Cup, Mumbai, 3rd day February 8, 2013

No answers to India's bowling worries

There are several openings for bowlers in the Test line-up, but none of the contenders have presented a strong case during the Irani Cup
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Rest of India are now favourites to take home the Irani Cup but with their players on the selectors' radar - in the last first-class game of the domestic season - just ahead of the major Test series against Australia, individual goals have assumed a greater prominence. There is a competition for places in India's Test side, and the bowling department seems an open field.

Zaheer Khan and Umesh Yadav are injured and doubtful starters, Ishant Sharma looked a likely retention despite taking just seven wickets at 75 last year and he may or may not have a renewed fitness concern. In the spin department, Pragyan Ojha and R Ashwin were outperformed, comprehensively, by Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann in the recent Test series. To be fair to selectors, there haven't been bowlers crying out to be picked for the Tests on the strength of their performance alone in the Ranji season gone by.

The Irani Cup, too, has failed to provide any convincing answers thus far to concerns over the state of India's bowling options ahead of a major Test series. At the outset, it didn't help that Rest of India left out Bengal seamer Shami Ahmed from their XI. Shami made it to the Indian limited-overs team on the strength of his success in the Ranji Trophy, and there was much anticipation over how he would follow up in a five-day fixture just ahead of a Test series.

Those who bowled for Rest of India have not offered much encouragement. Sreesanth's selection is prompted more by hope than recent results, and Abhimanyu Mithun was preferred over more successful competitors from the Ranji season. On a Wankhede track that has a significant shade of green with moisture underneath, the seamers were hardly been able to move the ball. Sreesanth and Mithun averaged around 129-130kmph, looked promising only in their early spells but offered several scoring opportunities thereafter, and rarely beat the bat. Ankeet Chavan at No.8, for instance, received freebies on leg stump and comfortably dispatched those that landed on middle and off on a length.

All seamers, Ishwar Pandey included, took their time to complete their overs and played their part in slowing down the over-rate considerably by overstepping - there have been 22 no-balls in this game so far. In Rest of India's case, it wasn't a surprise, with the seamers landing their foot over the line by a massive margin during the warm-ups ahead of play.

If the seamers' lack of urgency and discipline were not enough, the spinners presented their own reasons for concern. Harbhajan Singh's inclusion in the squad is in itself an indictment of a dearth of spin options on the domestic circuit and though he picked up three wickets, he was a beneficiary of an umpiring error and a poor shot from Rohit Sharma who didn't help his own case for selection. Pragyan Ojha was dominated by Sachin Tendulkar, and while that's no shame the questions over his effectiveness on an unresponsive track remained, as there was no turn, or perhaps not as much spin imparted on the ball as has been his problem. Of his two victims, Dhawal Kulkarni negotiated him assuredly before a needless attempt to clear mid-off with Tendulkar at the other end gifted Ojha a wicket - an unlikely possibility against an Australian batsman.

India's national selectors, who meet on Sunday, will be deliberating over an attack without a fast-bowling core, spinners having shown no signs of improvement since the England series, and very limited options on the table, none of them an-out-an-out case for selection owing to merit. Rest of India bowlers could get a second chance if their side aim for an outright victory, but there's no certainty about that either.

Siddhartha Talya is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • sportofpain on February 9, 2013, 11:54 GMT

    Sreesanth is a match winner. Pick him. Bhaji is also a match winner. Pick him too. Bhuaneshwar Kumar could be picked if Umesh Yadav is still unfit. Zaheer should be picked too. And Ojha. So the line up would be Zak and Sreesanth with Bhaj, Ashwin and Ojha as the spinners. BK on stand by for one of the seamers. For test matches you should ALWAYS pick the folks who can take wickets - all these guys can.

  • 30-30-150 on February 9, 2013, 10:01 GMT

    Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Sreesanth would be a good new ball combination.

  • 30-30-150 on February 9, 2013, 9:58 GMT

    Harbhajan has got 3 wickets in the innings and will definitely walk into the squad based on his reputation. Time to move on from Harbhajan. The selectors should select a wildcard spinner like how Australia did with Nathan Lyon or Sri Lanka with A Dananjaya. Agree with @Nampally regarding Vishal Joshi and Parvez Rasool.

  • YOONUS123 on February 9, 2013, 7:55 GMT

    should pick up sreesanth in the squad,i think he is very aggressive bowler i have ever seen in the world

  • on February 9, 2013, 6:41 GMT

    This is a very intresting conversation going on here..I wish the selectors read this b4 selecting the team..b4 being a CSK fan,i am a fan of team India and wish our team really does well..We need to get in Harbhajan singh instead of Ashwin since he is a very experienced campaigner and Ojha isnt a bad bowler.Ojha and bhajji can make a gud spin combination and why not try a left arm spinner like Shahbaz nadeem as the 3rd option.Regarding the pace attack Bhuvaneswar shud get a chance and along with Sreesanth and maybe Shami Ahmed too.Please no Dinda as we need to get the younger lot to be groomed in.I am sure Bhajji and Sreesanth will give their best to come back in the team as they r fierce competitors.Good luck team India..Pls dont let us down for the sake of my fav captain MS Dhoni :)

  • on February 9, 2013, 5:37 GMT

    I totally disagree to this remark made by Cricinfo team "Sreesanth ..averaged around 129-130kmph, looked promising only in their early spells but offered several scoring opportunities thereafter, and rarely beat the bat. " Sreesanth was a bit offmark only in the initial spell,thereafter he bowled beautifully to Sachin which tested Masterblaster with swinging short balls and a few inswingers. Sreesanth has just come back after a surgery on both his foot. I think Sreesanth bowled really well on this flat track on the 3rd day when there wont be any assistance to the bowlers from the pitch..........Shami Ahmed is not suited for Test,,he bowls a tight line which is suited only for limited overs...

  • realfan on February 9, 2013, 3:00 GMT

    @Al_Bundy1 1 suggestion for you... take out ojah's name from the list... he is the best spinner for india right nw.... remember he took 95 wickets from 20 matches.... thats not easy thing to do... and he was best spinner in india england series, exept that he lost support........

  • amarnath79 on February 9, 2013, 2:41 GMT

    Bhajji is still India's best spinner. No other senior player has been mistreated by selectors in the last 2 years like him. Others like Sehwag, Gambhir, SRT, Dhoni, Yuvii, Zaheer were given as many chances as they wanted but not Bhajji.

  • happy-go-lucky on February 9, 2013, 0:57 GMT

    Trying Ishwar is a positive move. They should also have tried Sandeep Sharma and Sandeep Warrier.

  • Nampally on February 9, 2013, 0:21 GMT

    Sid, India's bowling worries can be easily solved if the Selectors have an Action plan - which they don't have.You need an established goal as regards the type of bowlers required. India once had bowlers like Mankad, Durrani & Nadkarni. These were all left arm orthodox spinners who were extremely accurate wkt.takers. India needs one such bowler at one end who can bottle up with accurate bowling. India needs to combine this another wicket taking spinner at the other end. This could be a right hand leg spinner or Off spinner or one of each depending upon the wicket. India is lacking this combination.Ashwin & Ojha did against weak opposition like WI or NZ. They failed against England on a consistent basis. I think Nadeem can be that Left handed spinner if Ojha lacks that.India should develop V.Joshi or Rasool to be the off spinner if Ashwin keeps on failing.Yadev, Aaron, Ishant, B.Kumar & Shami are all good young seamers, if they are fit. Going back to Harbhajan is an aimless & bad Move.

  • sportofpain on February 9, 2013, 11:54 GMT

    Sreesanth is a match winner. Pick him. Bhaji is also a match winner. Pick him too. Bhuaneshwar Kumar could be picked if Umesh Yadav is still unfit. Zaheer should be picked too. And Ojha. So the line up would be Zak and Sreesanth with Bhaj, Ashwin and Ojha as the spinners. BK on stand by for one of the seamers. For test matches you should ALWAYS pick the folks who can take wickets - all these guys can.

  • 30-30-150 on February 9, 2013, 10:01 GMT

    Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Sreesanth would be a good new ball combination.

  • 30-30-150 on February 9, 2013, 9:58 GMT

    Harbhajan has got 3 wickets in the innings and will definitely walk into the squad based on his reputation. Time to move on from Harbhajan. The selectors should select a wildcard spinner like how Australia did with Nathan Lyon or Sri Lanka with A Dananjaya. Agree with @Nampally regarding Vishal Joshi and Parvez Rasool.

  • YOONUS123 on February 9, 2013, 7:55 GMT

    should pick up sreesanth in the squad,i think he is very aggressive bowler i have ever seen in the world

  • on February 9, 2013, 6:41 GMT

    This is a very intresting conversation going on here..I wish the selectors read this b4 selecting the team..b4 being a CSK fan,i am a fan of team India and wish our team really does well..We need to get in Harbhajan singh instead of Ashwin since he is a very experienced campaigner and Ojha isnt a bad bowler.Ojha and bhajji can make a gud spin combination and why not try a left arm spinner like Shahbaz nadeem as the 3rd option.Regarding the pace attack Bhuvaneswar shud get a chance and along with Sreesanth and maybe Shami Ahmed too.Please no Dinda as we need to get the younger lot to be groomed in.I am sure Bhajji and Sreesanth will give their best to come back in the team as they r fierce competitors.Good luck team India..Pls dont let us down for the sake of my fav captain MS Dhoni :)

  • on February 9, 2013, 5:37 GMT

    I totally disagree to this remark made by Cricinfo team "Sreesanth ..averaged around 129-130kmph, looked promising only in their early spells but offered several scoring opportunities thereafter, and rarely beat the bat. " Sreesanth was a bit offmark only in the initial spell,thereafter he bowled beautifully to Sachin which tested Masterblaster with swinging short balls and a few inswingers. Sreesanth has just come back after a surgery on both his foot. I think Sreesanth bowled really well on this flat track on the 3rd day when there wont be any assistance to the bowlers from the pitch..........Shami Ahmed is not suited for Test,,he bowls a tight line which is suited only for limited overs...

  • realfan on February 9, 2013, 3:00 GMT

    @Al_Bundy1 1 suggestion for you... take out ojah's name from the list... he is the best spinner for india right nw.... remember he took 95 wickets from 20 matches.... thats not easy thing to do... and he was best spinner in india england series, exept that he lost support........

  • amarnath79 on February 9, 2013, 2:41 GMT

    Bhajji is still India's best spinner. No other senior player has been mistreated by selectors in the last 2 years like him. Others like Sehwag, Gambhir, SRT, Dhoni, Yuvii, Zaheer were given as many chances as they wanted but not Bhajji.

  • happy-go-lucky on February 9, 2013, 0:57 GMT

    Trying Ishwar is a positive move. They should also have tried Sandeep Sharma and Sandeep Warrier.

  • Nampally on February 9, 2013, 0:21 GMT

    Sid, India's bowling worries can be easily solved if the Selectors have an Action plan - which they don't have.You need an established goal as regards the type of bowlers required. India once had bowlers like Mankad, Durrani & Nadkarni. These were all left arm orthodox spinners who were extremely accurate wkt.takers. India needs one such bowler at one end who can bottle up with accurate bowling. India needs to combine this another wicket taking spinner at the other end. This could be a right hand leg spinner or Off spinner or one of each depending upon the wicket. India is lacking this combination.Ashwin & Ojha did against weak opposition like WI or NZ. They failed against England on a consistent basis. I think Nadeem can be that Left handed spinner if Ojha lacks that.India should develop V.Joshi or Rasool to be the off spinner if Ashwin keeps on failing.Yadev, Aaron, Ishant, B.Kumar & Shami are all good young seamers, if they are fit. Going back to Harbhajan is an aimless & bad Move.

  • on February 8, 2013, 23:42 GMT

    deserving bowlers do not get a chance because of dhoni's preference for chennai super kings players. e.g. amit mishra did not get a single game in one day series against pakistan and england even though ashwin is failing consitently in all 3 forms of the game. they shd have tested bhuvneshwar, dinda and ahmed in this match rather than abhimanyu mithun and sreesanth and ishwar pandey. pujara, jadeja, mohammad kaif, should have been playing this match and not raina, murali vijay. all our batsman including kohli, dhoni needed this match as they were not in form. hope selectors don't give more chances to raina, murali vijay, ashwin, rohit, gambhir while selecting test team. my test match line would be: 1) jaffer 2) rahane, 3) pujara, 4) sachin, 5) sehwag, 6) kohli, 7) dhoni, 8) amit mishra, 9) harbhajan, 10) bhuvneshwar, 11) shami ahmed, 12) dinda, 13) oza, 14) jadeja,

  • TM on February 8, 2013, 23:32 GMT

    where is harmeet singh? hes a great spinner better than ojha

  • Dhanno on February 8, 2013, 21:54 GMT

    @Al_bundy, here is how it works. the same tried and failed bowlers will make it to test team as there are no other options (zak injured, ishant niggle, umesh broke after 2 series etc). Now also against these bowlers (+ mumbai attack), the likes of Rohit/ raina/ Vijay are supposed to make runs so they can be selected to the test squad (I know rohit failed, but that was the plan). Its win win situation if u are CSK follower, your crappy bowlers make it to test squad + flat track bully batsman are halfway through based on flogging these bowlers recieved.

    One problem is how is Dhoni going to justify picking Rohit for test squad. Maybe it will be based on that "one" inning he played against England. Ya maybe.

  • VickGower on February 8, 2013, 21:11 GMT

    "India's national selectors, who meet on Sunday, will be deliberating over an attack without a fast-bowling core, spinners having shown no signs of improvement since the England series, and very limited options on the table, none of them an-out-an-out case for selection owing to merit."

    I would ask the author to remember these own words of his when judging Dhoni's captaincy. Which recent Indian captain has had such a bankrupt cupboard of bowlers; and so many untested or nonperforming batsmen at once. Keep this article in mind when judging that Dhoni was hesitant or too defensive, or not attacking enough. Let us remember not to conflate BCCIs failures with Dhoni's captaincy. Instead of worrying about the next captain to lift India's fortune as you seemed to be doing in your interview of Boycott the other day (which made the exasperated Boycott tell you that India is lucky to have Dhoni and that it is this team which is failing him) one needs 2 question administration of Indian cricket.

  • Al_Bundy1 on February 8, 2013, 21:02 GMT

    How do you expect to unearth new bowlers when you play the same tried and failed bowlers, like Mithun, Bhajji, and Ojha?? BCCI didn't field the best spinner - Nadeem, or second best pacer - Sandeep Sharma. Only Ishwar Pandey deserved a place because of his performance in Ranji Trophy.

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  • Al_Bundy1 on February 8, 2013, 21:02 GMT

    How do you expect to unearth new bowlers when you play the same tried and failed bowlers, like Mithun, Bhajji, and Ojha?? BCCI didn't field the best spinner - Nadeem, or second best pacer - Sandeep Sharma. Only Ishwar Pandey deserved a place because of his performance in Ranji Trophy.

  • VickGower on February 8, 2013, 21:11 GMT

    "India's national selectors, who meet on Sunday, will be deliberating over an attack without a fast-bowling core, spinners having shown no signs of improvement since the England series, and very limited options on the table, none of them an-out-an-out case for selection owing to merit."

    I would ask the author to remember these own words of his when judging Dhoni's captaincy. Which recent Indian captain has had such a bankrupt cupboard of bowlers; and so many untested or nonperforming batsmen at once. Keep this article in mind when judging that Dhoni was hesitant or too defensive, or not attacking enough. Let us remember not to conflate BCCIs failures with Dhoni's captaincy. Instead of worrying about the next captain to lift India's fortune as you seemed to be doing in your interview of Boycott the other day (which made the exasperated Boycott tell you that India is lucky to have Dhoni and that it is this team which is failing him) one needs 2 question administration of Indian cricket.

  • Dhanno on February 8, 2013, 21:54 GMT

    @Al_bundy, here is how it works. the same tried and failed bowlers will make it to test team as there are no other options (zak injured, ishant niggle, umesh broke after 2 series etc). Now also against these bowlers (+ mumbai attack), the likes of Rohit/ raina/ Vijay are supposed to make runs so they can be selected to the test squad (I know rohit failed, but that was the plan). Its win win situation if u are CSK follower, your crappy bowlers make it to test squad + flat track bully batsman are halfway through based on flogging these bowlers recieved.

    One problem is how is Dhoni going to justify picking Rohit for test squad. Maybe it will be based on that "one" inning he played against England. Ya maybe.

  • TM on February 8, 2013, 23:32 GMT

    where is harmeet singh? hes a great spinner better than ojha

  • on February 8, 2013, 23:42 GMT

    deserving bowlers do not get a chance because of dhoni's preference for chennai super kings players. e.g. amit mishra did not get a single game in one day series against pakistan and england even though ashwin is failing consitently in all 3 forms of the game. they shd have tested bhuvneshwar, dinda and ahmed in this match rather than abhimanyu mithun and sreesanth and ishwar pandey. pujara, jadeja, mohammad kaif, should have been playing this match and not raina, murali vijay. all our batsman including kohli, dhoni needed this match as they were not in form. hope selectors don't give more chances to raina, murali vijay, ashwin, rohit, gambhir while selecting test team. my test match line would be: 1) jaffer 2) rahane, 3) pujara, 4) sachin, 5) sehwag, 6) kohli, 7) dhoni, 8) amit mishra, 9) harbhajan, 10) bhuvneshwar, 11) shami ahmed, 12) dinda, 13) oza, 14) jadeja,

  • Nampally on February 9, 2013, 0:21 GMT

    Sid, India's bowling worries can be easily solved if the Selectors have an Action plan - which they don't have.You need an established goal as regards the type of bowlers required. India once had bowlers like Mankad, Durrani & Nadkarni. These were all left arm orthodox spinners who were extremely accurate wkt.takers. India needs one such bowler at one end who can bottle up with accurate bowling. India needs to combine this another wicket taking spinner at the other end. This could be a right hand leg spinner or Off spinner or one of each depending upon the wicket. India is lacking this combination.Ashwin & Ojha did against weak opposition like WI or NZ. They failed against England on a consistent basis. I think Nadeem can be that Left handed spinner if Ojha lacks that.India should develop V.Joshi or Rasool to be the off spinner if Ashwin keeps on failing.Yadev, Aaron, Ishant, B.Kumar & Shami are all good young seamers, if they are fit. Going back to Harbhajan is an aimless & bad Move.

  • happy-go-lucky on February 9, 2013, 0:57 GMT

    Trying Ishwar is a positive move. They should also have tried Sandeep Sharma and Sandeep Warrier.

  • amarnath79 on February 9, 2013, 2:41 GMT

    Bhajji is still India's best spinner. No other senior player has been mistreated by selectors in the last 2 years like him. Others like Sehwag, Gambhir, SRT, Dhoni, Yuvii, Zaheer were given as many chances as they wanted but not Bhajji.

  • realfan on February 9, 2013, 3:00 GMT

    @Al_Bundy1 1 suggestion for you... take out ojah's name from the list... he is the best spinner for india right nw.... remember he took 95 wickets from 20 matches.... thats not easy thing to do... and he was best spinner in india england series, exept that he lost support........

  • on February 9, 2013, 5:37 GMT

    I totally disagree to this remark made by Cricinfo team "Sreesanth ..averaged around 129-130kmph, looked promising only in their early spells but offered several scoring opportunities thereafter, and rarely beat the bat. " Sreesanth was a bit offmark only in the initial spell,thereafter he bowled beautifully to Sachin which tested Masterblaster with swinging short balls and a few inswingers. Sreesanth has just come back after a surgery on both his foot. I think Sreesanth bowled really well on this flat track on the 3rd day when there wont be any assistance to the bowlers from the pitch..........Shami Ahmed is not suited for Test,,he bowls a tight line which is suited only for limited overs...