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

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

  • Ivan 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.

  • Deepak on February 9, 2013, 10:01 GMT

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

  • Deepak 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.

  • yoonus tanur 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

  • Dummy4 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 :)

  • Dummy4 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...

  • vishwas 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........

  • amar 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.

  • Rahul on February 9, 2013, 0:57 GMT

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

  • Ashok 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.

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