'Best new-ball pair in the world' needs support - Srinath
Former India fast bowler Javagal Srinath has said that India need a capable third fast bowler if they are to maintain their recent consistency. Srinath rated Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma as "the best new-ball pair in the world" but said they would not remain effective if India's selectors persisted with a "musical chairs" policy.
"The third pacer has to be a walk-in choice in the team. It just can't be like the musical chairs as it is now," Srinath said at Bangalore's National Cricket Academy. "The longevity and form of Zaheer and Ishant will depend on what quality they get from the third seamer. Otherwise it will be case of what happened to [Venkatesh] Prasad and me where you bowl long spells, you get tired, and you lose your sting."
Srinath and Prasad formed a successful new-ball pairing for India in the 1990s but India still struggled, mostly overseas, with the two fast bowlers and Anil Kumble shouldering the attack. Zaheer's appearance in 2000 was a boost to a struggling side and for a brief while he shared the new ball with Srinath, the pair doing well in New Zealand and the 2003 World Cup that followed.
But in the past few years, pace has played a key role overseas and at home, proving that India are not spin-reliant any more. Since they have paired up, Ishant and Zaheer have become a force in varying conditions The skill with which the duo used the new, and particularly the old ball, played a crucial role in India's regaining the Border-Gavaskar Trophy last year. Ishant has achieved what no Indian fast bowler has achieved since Kapil Dev in 1983 - he won a Player-of-the-Series award at home.
"They have produced tremendous results in the time they have been together," said Srinath. "There is no doubt they are the best bowling pair now."
India's selectors have picked Munaf Patel, L Balaji and rookie Dhawal Kulkarni for the upcoming Tests in New Zealand. Munaf, when fit, has appeared a strong contender to fill the third seamer's role. Srinath termed Munaf "a good prospect", and said he had produced good results at times. "All three [Munaf, L Balaji, and Dhawal Kulkarni] have done well in domestic cricket," he said. "But this is when you show you don't just belong in that space, you belong at the next level as well."
Srinath, who played three Tests in New Zealand, urged India's pace attack to bring the batsmen onto the front foot. "When the ball is moving around, you have to make the batsman play on the front foot," said Srinath of conditions that have assisted swing and seam. "Venky [Prasad] will be there to tell them all they need to know, but the rudiments don't change too much wherever you play. You have to make the batsman play, not allow him to leave too much.
"This is your time, when the team looks up to you to lead the way. You have to turn that added responsibility into a positive; if you think it is pressure, it will eat you up from within."