Net bowlers reinforce India sans Sreesanth, Harbhajan
The BCCI's move to send over Jaidev Unadkat and Umesh Yadav, mainly as net bowlers, to Colombo came good in an undesired way as two frontline bowlers missed India's first net session of the tour. Sreesanth was down with a knee discomfort and Harbhajan Singh with fever. Sreesanth has had an MRI done, and the board is likely to make an official communication on Monday. A first nets session without two main bowlers would have frustrated the visitors after a steady drizzle denied them practise on Saturday.
The issues with Sreesanth and Harbhajan are coincidental, but that the board agreed to the team's request for extra bowlers is worth credit. It is believed that the team management had asked the BCCI for a couple of promising young bowlers, who could solve India's problem of lack of quality net bowlers on their away assignments. So Unadkat, playing in the India A tour of England, was asked to accompany Wriddhiman Saha and Abhimanyu Mithun, who are part of the Test squad.
Although this is a hastily arranged tour, the BCCI had earlier acted prudently by getting the programme changed to include a three-day tour game, and making sure the team reached the country nine days before the first Test. The Indian team had come in for a lot of criticism for the absence of a warm-up game in their World Twenty20 schedule. They didn't have a warm-up game on their previous Test tour, to New Zealand, either. Both these decisions could be pointing towards a pleasant change in the board's attitude where it listens to the needs of the team management.
The choice of the bowlers is interesting. The 18-year-old Unadkat, who was one of India's better performers in the Under-19 World Cup, first caught attention when Wasim Akram, his coach at Kolkata Knight Riders, had nice things to say about him. Yadav has taken the more conventional route to the reckoning, through two solid reasons with Vidarbha. He made his ODI debut during the second-string Indian side's tour of Zimbabwe.
Neither of these bowlers have had chances to bowl at Test batsmen: Unadkat is yet to make Ranji debut, and Yadav plays in the Ranji Plate League. "It was the board's decision to send them here so that they get exposure bowling to Test batsmen, and also our batsmen get proper practice," Ranjib Biswal, India's manager on tour, told Cricinfo.
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo