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Commentator, television presenter and writer

Where are India's bowlers?

Test cricket is back on the team's radar, but there aren't too many partners for Zaheer Khan

Harsha Bhogle

June 25, 2010

Comments: 75 | Text size: A | A

RP Singh looks on as Sreesanth begins his run-up in the nets, at the Kinrara Academy Oval, Kuala Lumpur, September 19, 2006
The likes of Sreesanth and RP Singh would have been helped if they had gone on the A tour to England © AFP
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Series/Tournaments: India tour of Sri Lanka
Teams: India

The Asia Cup, a tournament that had to be rather clumsily slotted in, and which has lost the principle it was founded on, is finally over. Sadly this time it was just another four-nation tournament. To be fair, it is on a hiding to nothing, for if two other teams had been accommodated it would have made the tournament longer and produced too many one-sided matches. Maybe the original idea needs to be reviewed in a post Twenty20 scenario.

It now sets the stage for India to play their first Test for five months and for the return of those who defined batting as we knew it in the pre-Twenty20 era. India has always tended to be a batting country, and given the current bowling strength, the batsmen have to play the dominant role more than they usually do. But they cannot do it on their own, just as strikers cannot win a football match by themselves. At some point the bowling will have to show it has more teeth than it is displaying.

In the last seven Test matches India played, the fast bowling was carried by Zaheer Khan, but he had fairly significant support from Ishant Sharma and, for a couple of games, from Sreesanth. Now neither of those two seems to be on the selectors' radar, because if they were, they would have been getting valuable overs under their belt for India A in England rather than having to give sundry statements to the media. With RP Singh, Munaf Patel and Irfan Pathan in various stages of disfavour, India will have to find a partner for Zaheer, and it would seem a drawing of lots would be as accurate a method as any, especially given that the only spark so far has been provided by young Jaidev Unadkat on that A tour.

In fact, the selection for that A tour worried me a bit, because I fear that side is full of people who are unlikely to play for India. The objectives of an A tour are really two-fold: to check out someone like an Unadkat, who you believe has promise, but more crucially to let your fringe players play themselves back into contention. It is like playing a couple of games for a 2nd XI once in a while to get time in the middle and rediscover rhythm. It would have been fantastic for India if an Ishant or an RP Singh or even a Sreesanth had picked up wickets in England and had enough overs under their belt to fly out to Sri Lanka.

Given that India play 11 Test matches between now and the World Cup, I am hoping that the selectors know something we don't.

They certainly have better options when it comes to spinners, with Harbhajan Singh, Amit Mishra and Pragyan Ojha, but in South Africa you might well want to play only one of those. Remember, too, that India don't have an allrounder at this level (actually at any level now!) and so must either play five batsmen and five bowlers or make do with four bowlers, which is what I suspect they will do.

The batting, though, retains its settled look, which, given that the average age of the middle order is 37, should start worrying a few people now. The batsmen have powered India and over the last seven games have been in astonishing form, amassing 19 centuries from 52 innings. Only No. 6 is up for grabs now and there are three contenders for it. Apart from Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma (who should have made his Test debut against South Africa had it not been for another of those maddening pre-match football games), Cheteshwar Pujara has made a pretty strong case for himself.

There is much to look forward to and it will be a good test of the romantics who often speak of their yearning for Test cricket. They have 11 games before the biggest 50-over tournament and the glitziest 20-over carnival begin.

Harsha Bhogle is a commentator, television presenter and writer

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Posted by Irfandbest on (June 28, 2010, 18:27 GMT)

SIDE BY SIDE COMPARISON OF ZAHEER KHAN & IRFAN PATHAN, WAKE UP BCCI SELECTORS!!!! YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE A ROCKET SCIENTIST TO UNDERSTAND THIS!!

Bowling: Zaheer Mat Inns Balls Runs Wkts BBI BBM Ave Econ SR 4w 5w 10 Tests 72 131 14417 7983 242 7/87 10/149 32.98 3.32 59.5 12 9 1 ODIs 175 172 8754 7183 241 5/42 5/42 29.80 4.92 36.3 7 1 0

Irfan Tests 29 54 5884 3226 100 7/59 12/126 32.26 3.28 58.8 2 7 2 ODIs 107 105 5194 4547 152 5/27 5/27 29.91 5.25 34.1 4 1 0

Batting: Zaheer Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave BF SR 100 50 4s 6s Ct St Tests 72 94 22 969 75 13.45 1880 51.54 0 3 109 19 18 0 ODIs 175 91 35 719 34* 12.83 940 76.48 0 0 60 24 37 0

Irfan Tests 29 40 5 1105 102 31.57 2076 53.22 1 6 131 18 8 0 ODIs 107 78 18 1368 83 22.80 1761 77.68 0 5 127 33 18 0

Posted by   on (June 28, 2010, 14:56 GMT)

Do you think that it would be good to bring in Parthiv Paatel as a substitute keeper instead of Wridhiman Saha? I personally ama fan of his and so I would vouch for him, but the fact that he has more international experience than Saha would be an advantage and also the fact that he had a good Ranji season would seal the deal for most. For the bowling department, we have to find some people who can keep a consistent pace. Some new talents should be found and be only trained for long periods and be given a mark of 140 km/h to stick to because the players have to learn to bowl fast consistently and not just give it your all when you start and then drop to the low 130s like Ishant Sharma. My view on our middle order crisis is simple. Find one person to replace the gap left with the departure of Ganguly. We have not played many tests since then, but we have always chosen Yuvraj when we play. With his current form, my solution is to let raina in and play him till the end of the season ends

Posted by ShinChan on (June 28, 2010, 14:30 GMT)

Do you think that it would be good to bring in Parthiv Paatel as a substitute keeper instead of Wridhiman Saha? I personally ama fan of his and so I would vouch for him, but the fact that he has more international experience than Saha would be an advantage and also the fact that he had a good Ranji season would seal the deal for most. For the bowling department, we have to find some people who can keep a consistent pace. Some new talents should be found and be only trained for long periods and be given a mark of 140 km/h to stick to because the players have to learn to bowl fast consistently and not just give it your all when you start and then drop to the low 130s like Ishant Sharma. My view on our middle order crisis is simple. Find one person to replace the gap left with the departure of Ganguly. We have not played many tests since then, but we have always chosen Yuvraj when we play. With his current form, my solution is to let raina in and play him till the end of the season ends

Posted by   on (June 27, 2010, 19:32 GMT)

Absolutely spot on!!! The indian cricket team , both the test and the odi squad seems to have a really bad bowling attack.There are a lot of really good talented bowlers in the form of sreesanth,ishant,rp and munaf, but where is the consistency???munaf picks up wickets in his first series against england at round abt sum good pace, but that was the last time he bowled well. It is sad to know these bowlers have just one moment in test cricket where they have taken te spotlight-munaf against england,sree against rsa,ishant against aus and rp against england in england!What the team wants out of a bowler is not one who is economical alone, but one who can take wickets as well.these bowlers trying to be economical have reduced on their pace, each of em capable of sum brisk pace,and have lost their wicket taking abilities.Come on with a batting line up like ours, should the bowlers be so strictly focussed on being economical? Not necessary at all. Aint cricket a batsmans game???

Posted by   on (June 27, 2010, 10:18 GMT)

These Indian Cricketers are more fond of showing IPL Money than teeth in bowling. Team India and BCCI is madly obsessed with Stupid, Rubbish, Non-Sense, Obsolete, Commercial event IPL, which is selling 6s and 4s on Lifeless Pitches. IPL-Mad Team India is losing Skill, Inspiration, Motivation, Hunger, Determination, Committment and Fitness to play International or Test Cricket on lively Pitches. Curators, Commentators and BCCI Officials are working for IPL growth rather than Cricket growth. Until IPL is not thrashed, Team India is not going to perform well in International Tournaments. Test, ODI & T20 Cricket is great to watch at International level on lively pitches, unlike IPL Teams which looks like club cricket and played on lifeless pitches.

Posted by macric on (June 27, 2010, 8:01 GMT)

If Dhoni wants pace bowling allrounder - shouldn't he be playing Irfan? (well again without thoughtless and directionless selection -he is restricted) And give Praveen Kumar few more chances slightly higher to see if he could atleast swish around atleast like bhajii? Instead we talk of bhajii as an all-rounder - are you kididng? If bhajii does get injured before WC who are we going to play? pragyan ohhhhjaaa? the cant restrict, cant bat, cant field guy? SELECTORS some direction here please - we invest quite bit of our time in watchign cricket- so do value it.

It is time to see if Ishant, Munaf and RP -who have done reasonably at ODI level could be backups rather than take a chance with Umesh Yadav, Mitun's -who could or could not make it coz they need perform in future -whereas these are tested material. I think with a fielding course Munaf may be a good backup atleast if someone injured. BUT then i am not paid - the one's paid are not DOING THEIR JOB.ATTENTON PLZ>............

Posted by macric on (June 27, 2010, 7:51 GMT)

Now that we have paid selectors -aren't accountable for the fast bowling mess we are in ? If Zaheer's is off, we are in serious contention as a bowling unit with Afghanistan. Can someone put up their hand and claim this popgun attack can defend sub 220 scores?

There is no doubt that our fast bowling resources have been decimated with thoughtless selection -not only by Srikanth & co even by people before them. Why do our selectors continously ruin careers when they know a player is not in form or subsequently pick a player when is in good nick. M.Vijay's career is being ruined likewise when repeated chances are given when it is obivous that he has to sort out his technical shortcomings. Same with raina even gully cricketers know what to do - just check the finals of Asia cup - will he survive a test match ? SELECTORS NEED TO BE MADE ACCOUNTABLE - bcos they really create problems for team mgt with their inconsistent team selectio

Posted by Evangelyst on (June 27, 2010, 0:39 GMT)

Indian cricket desperately needs a new generation of test batsmen to be groomed after the Big 3. I guess the selectors are hoping Yuvraj will play the role of experienced / lead middle order batsman, once SRT, RD and VVS retire. He and Dhoni could be looked to guide and groom within the next 2-3 years the next test batsmen with Rohit Sharma, Raina, Pujara and Kohli being prime contenders.

For opening slots, Sehwag and Gambhir will hopefully be around next 4-5 years, by which time Rahane and Mukund etc can be brought in.

Of course the bigger concern is the "lost generation" of fast bowlers. India cannot afford to let the likes of Irfan, RP, Sreesanth, Munaf and Ishant fade away after having invested 2/3 years in their development. Top level think tank should be formed to groom them and prepare them to get their groove back at the highest level and take on the mantle of lead pace bowlers.

Posted by Shunya on (June 26, 2010, 16:42 GMT)

Besides the perennial lack of a genuine allrounder, india needs an out and out fast bowler who can consistently deliver 140kph+ throughout the 8-10 overs he bowls in an ODI, like roach, aamer, bolinger, and malinga do for their respective countries. The last time we saw that happening for india was perhaps in the 2003 WC in SA, when srinath, zaheer, and nehra formed the troika of express bowlers in the 140kph range. IPL has shown that there are players who can perform that role for india in future and may be even for the 2011 WC. i am sure if umesh (DD), abu ahmed, kulkarni (both from MI), and aaron (KKR) are put through the paces in MRF and NCA for the next 6 months and sent out on india A duty, one of them will hopefully make a good impression and provide the missing link that india is so desperately searching for.

Posted by   on (June 26, 2010, 14:14 GMT)

i think ishant would have been given chance in india a's tour to england,thats what gives him match practice,in such a manner he could regain his confidence so that he can delever well for india, he sholud noy be on frindges... that is how he wouldbecome a good bowler,secondly they should find allronder or give a chance to irfan pathan to prove his worth,as far as batsman is concerned cheteshwar pujara and raina are next in line for test squad rather than kohli so that india can do well in this format

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Harsha Bhogle Harsha Bhogle is one of the world's leading cricket commentators. Starting off as a chemical engineer and going on to work in advertising before moving into television, he is also a writer, quiz host, television presenter and talk-show host, and a corporate motivational speaker. He was voted Cricinfo readers' "favourite cricket commentator" in a poll in 2008, and one of his proudest possessions is a photograph of a group of spectators in Pakistan holding a banner that said "Harsha Bhogle Fan Club". He has commentated on nearly 100 Tests and more than 400 ODIs.

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