Sri Lanka v India, 1st Test, Galle

Weakened bowling threatens India's chances

Given the lack of experience, swing, and discipline, India have it all stacked up against them on the bowling front

Sidharth Monga in Galle

July 17, 2010

Comments: 34 | Text size: A | A

Harbhajan Singh warms up ahead of a practice session, Galle, July 17, 2010
Harbhajan Singh's fitness would be a concern, given he's just recovering from a flu © Associated Press
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Sometimes some places inspire people. On their last Test tour, when India came to Galle, Harbhajan Singh and Ishant Sharma were two such inspired men. The batting had been destroyed in Colombo and, apart from Virender Sehwag, it had failed again in Galle. Harbhajan then produced perhaps his bowling effort of recent times, and Ishant followed it up with a match-winning burst in the sapping heat on the final afternoon.

Back to playing in front of the magnificent Galle Fort, India will need nothing less than similar inspiration from both men if they are to harbour any thoughts of winning this match, or any other in the series. There will be no Zaheer Khan here to guide Ishant, no Anil Kumble to block the other end for Harbhajan. On top of that, they will have to contend with a reinvented Tillakaratne Dilshan and a more stable Sri Lankan batting line-up.

Apart from Harbhajan, who will be hoping he doesn't get another bout of fever overnight, the rest of the Indian attack has played only 26 Tests. Out of them, Abhimanyu Mithun, a favourite right now ahead of Munaf Patel, will be making his debut, and Pragyan Ojha, ahead of Amit Mishra who had a horrible tour game, has played only one Test.

Not since the Kanpur Test in April 2008 against South Africa, when Ishant, Sreesanth, Harbhajan and Piyush Chawla were the bowlers, have India played such an inexperienced bowling attack. And this is no one-off Test: there will be no reinforcements during the series. And this is no bowlers' heaven like Kanpur was. And in Sri Lanka's humidity, this is as much a physical test as it is of skill.

Apart from that lack of experience, at the heart of India's problems is the lack of swing bowlers. Both Zaheer and Sreesanth swing the ball; neither of Ishant, Mithun and Munaf is a specialist swing bowler. They are not bad bowlers, but Sri Lanka is not the ideal place for their hit-the-deck style. In the tour game, Chanaka Welegedara, the most impressive of fast bowlers on either side, got the ball to swing and removed Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid, and almost got Gautam Gambhir in one spell.

"It's not that our bowlers are not swing bowlers," MS Dhoni said. "[But] their strength is bowling back of a length on the off stump. But it depends on the conditions. If you're a good Test bowler, you have to vary your length. And Ishant has done that in the past. Depending on whether we are playing in India or Australia, he has varied his length, so a lot depends on what kind of wicket you get and what time of the day you're bowling."

There is also the small issue of the physical weakness Harbhajan will experience after the flu that kept him out of action almost throughout the tour. Dhoni, though, sounded confident of the part Harbhajan would play in the game. "He's a bit weak, and that's what happens when you come out of the flu," Dhoni said. "He spent some time bowling today, and he is batting right now as we speak in the press conference, so we are hoping that he will be 100% fit for the game."

Dhoni may have sounded positive about other aspects, but he was not at all pleased with the 36 no-balls that the Indians bowled in the tour game in Colombo. "That's definitely a big worry because if you get a wicket in Test matches, especially on flat tracks, and that's a no-ball, you have only yourself to blame," he said. "Hopefully we can reduce the number. If we can get it down to zero, that's the best we can do, but the amount of no-balls we bowled were quite a few. And surprisingly even the spinners bowled a lot of no-balls." The chief culprit, Mishra, who overstepped 17 times, is not likely to play in Galle.

Given the lack of experience, swing, and discipline (going by how they went in the tour game), India have it all stacked against them on the bowling front. Needless to say, it will also put extra pressure on the batsmen. Playing at home, the beast called Sri Lankan cricket preys on such weaknesses. At the end of three back-to-back Tests, India will have done really well to survive this test.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo

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Posted by Itchy on (July 18, 2010, 11:05 GMT)

@SnowSnake: You seem to not realise that Test cricket is a team game and if a couple of players do not perform well then the other players are there to take up the slack. This is what Australia has been very good at for an extended period in pretty much all of their matches and where pretenders to the crown such as SA and India have often struggled. Test cricket will be a pretty pointless game if, like India, you have a gun batting line-up who can always score 500+ but have a poor bowling attack that struggles to bowl out the opposition twice.

Posted by   on (July 18, 2010, 10:45 GMT)

Firstly India allowed Srilanka to win the toss,then the Indian bowlers and filders allowed Srilankans to score runs.When we bat the batsmen will let the Srilankan bowlers to dominate.FINE .FINE THE INDIAN CRICKET TEAM.

Posted by   on (July 18, 2010, 10:21 GMT)

keeping with Ishant and not looking at Irfan and Praveen is a short sightedness of the selectors and probably the stubbornness of Dhoni . He has some nexus with Ishant Sharma who is absolutely an unfit person to bowl in test cricket or any other form, in today's cricket. He just is meant as a punching bag for the opposition batsmen with no line, length and more so,lack of an intelligent head on his shoulders. Irfan and Praveen would have been the ideal choice given the reduced options . But who will hear the voice of the cricket fans? Stubborn Dhoni and Arrogant Srikanth are set to make India fall from glory to doom in this series itself.

Posted by pruffhill on (July 18, 2010, 10:12 GMT)

forcing SOURAV GANGULY out of the side was a big mistake. In gangulys absence no body has come and stepped up. Yuvraj cant play spin. I can gaurantee he will not score in this test. We should have included irfan. Big problems for india.

Posted by roxap on (July 18, 2010, 9:57 GMT)

extremely poor bowling attack..................where is the irfan,zaheer,RP singh etc, sreesanth is rubbish so its good he is not here

Posted by petrodeo on (July 18, 2010, 9:36 GMT)

why are they always pick unfit players to playing 11...why is the selection and team are proving they are bunch of jokers and keep forgeting what they have said before..there is so much talent...idiots...

Posted by Crickybala on (July 18, 2010, 9:22 GMT)

PATHETIC FAST BOWLING ATTACK, INDIA IT IS NOW TIME TO WORK ON BOWLING DEPT, YOU HAVE MORETHAN 150 GENUINE FAST BOWLERS IN THE COUNTRY BUT NOT ABLE TO IDENTIFY ONE FRONTLINE,

Posted by   on (July 18, 2010, 8:33 GMT)

phew ! Only harbhajan is the bowler...others are the gap filler.I don't see india dominate te test cricket only with batsmen. I am sorry but after kapil india never produced anyone who can play longer and serve the team.

Posted by msport on (July 18, 2010, 8:27 GMT)

@snowsnake-hey u dont cry about much about aussie fast bowling attack.bollinger,johnson r not only de fast bowler of aus harris siddle n hifaelnus r also there understand.Wid ponting out of form aus r still winning matches why crying?cricket is not an individual game baby it is a team game.If aus win de series against ind they will be 100percent no.1.Indias point will decrease after they loss to srilanka in de recent series.

Posted by Test_Match_Fan on (July 18, 2010, 7:24 GMT)

why is Yuvraj in the side: He can't bat nor bowl and can't field either. Corruption has seeped into the Indian side. India needs to develop an allrounder for this spot. Don't tell me there is no all rounder in India. The young need to be given a chance. Yuvraj, Zaheer and Tendulkar need to retire based on the "fat around belly" index

Posted by   on (July 18, 2010, 6:35 GMT)

As we are (already) weak at the bowling department, should have included Munaf (in place of Yuvraj). With this weak attack, there is no chance of bowling the opposition out twice.

Posted by Bilal_Choudry on (July 18, 2010, 6:18 GMT)

why cant india play 5 bowlers ... why do they have to play 6 batsman with such a strong top order

Posted by doctor46 on (July 18, 2010, 4:44 GMT)

Irfan has the potential to replace Kapil Dev! Yet we don't select him..why?

Posted by   on (July 18, 2010, 3:36 GMT)

I dont understand what's wrong with selection squad ... cant they c the options we ve got for bowling ... R. P is a genuine swing bowler and m sure he'z 100 times better than mithun .... why dont they c irfan pathan as a genuine all rounder especially after this IPL .... if they cant c opttions indiia got then they shud retire or are not true fans of indian cricket ....

Posted by vvg09 on (July 18, 2010, 3:34 GMT)

Popcorn-Pls get your facts right - India have won test series in their last away tours to England ( something which Australia could not achieve), New Zealand and West Indies. Its been a while since Australia won in England or India. Performance in Sri Lanka should not be the only criteria for "away" performance.

Posted by sneeky55 on (July 18, 2010, 3:24 GMT)

this is very disappointing....india seriously need to think about getting p kumar and irfan. irfan can bat a bit too, has experience and swings ball...kumar can swing the ball...what junk they are doing by getting mithun and w saha makes no sense

Posted by amareshsl on (July 18, 2010, 3:07 GMT)

Simply.. Considerably India may have weak fas bowling attack. But still they are as usual. SL has to do a good Job to Draw it or to win it. Anyway if Malinga fails to impress, then we would say that SL also had a very weak Bowling attack.

Posted by popcorn on (July 18, 2010, 1:48 GMT)

I simply cannot understand how India qualifies to be No.1 in Test Rankings.India seem to have played a lot more matches at HOME than AWAY. Beating another country in your backyard is no qualification.A true yardstick would be to give more points for AWAY wins than HOME wins, and by that yardstick alone, Australia are streets ahead.India have not won a Test series IN SRI LANKA against their neighbouring country Sri Lanka since 1993! And this is the third cricket series against Sri Lanka in 2 years! How about playing MORE Series AWAY,India? Against Australia,South Africa, England? And trying to win there?

Posted by   on (July 18, 2010, 1:03 GMT)

My Indian XI for today: Gambhir, Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, Yuvraj, Laxman, Dhoni (c&wk), Harbhajan, Mishra, Munaf Patel and P Ojha

In Murali's farewell test, contrary to what the curators say, the Galle International Cricket stadium will be a turning track for all five days. So three spinners should be the order of the day. Munaf Patel is the most experienced seamer in the squad. Dhoni should bowl for a few overs in the first innings as he is a good swing bowler. He has dismissed a opening batsman in international cricket with a lovely swinging delivery. Dravid can keep wickets when Dhoni is bowling.

The no.1 Test Team should think out of the box if they are to beat this Siri Lankan side.

The likes of Irfan Pathan, Agit Agarkar, RP Singh, Dinesh Karthik, Murali Kartik and Rohit Sharma will be deeply missed in Siri Lanka.

If we lose, the selectors are to blame. They are sill responsible for the Zimbabwe Tri-Series Loss.

All the best to Team India!

JAI HIND!!!!

Posted by Nampally on (July 17, 2010, 23:12 GMT)

Admitedly Indian bowling is weakened further due to loss of Zaheer & Sreesanth.But if Ishant strikes form and Harbhajan is fit, India still has 2 experienced bowlers. Ojha can keep one end tight and Mithun or other pace bowlers can provide back up. Dhoni can still rely on Yuvraj and Sehwag to provide some support. Can they take wickets and keep the runs down - depends upon how disciplined they are. If these bowlers can maintain length & direction India still has a reasonable bowling. India has 7 top class batsmen. If Dhoni wins the toss and India compile a total of over 500, the test match is still wide open. The most important thing for India is to live upto their batting potential and do not give away their wickets due to rash play.So good batting backed up by tight bowling and fielding can still give India a fair chance. India needs to play with lot of mental & physical toughness and have the will to win, if only to prove the critics wrong. Lets Go India & lets play Ball.

Posted by   on (July 17, 2010, 22:31 GMT)

Is srikant out of his mind selecting mithun instead of Irfan... Irfan can swing the ball and he is more than capable of playing tests plus he can swing the ball and he is an experienced player.

Posted by SnowSnake on (July 17, 2010, 22:08 GMT)

@mssport. If Aus. wins series against Pak. then mathematically they cannot be no. 1 because they just have one game to play. At best they can tie with South Africa with S. Africa above them in a few decimal places. Also, no need to hail Aus. fast bowling because their strike fast bowlers (Johnson & Bollinger) took only 3 wickets between them out of 20 total wickets & went wicketless in 2nd innings. Their strike batsmen Ponting and Hussey are not doing any better either-- with Ponting without scoring over 50 in last 8 test innings. So, Aus. team has its problems to sort out. The current win is masking underlying fundamental problems with Australian batting & bowling. Sri Lanka is a better balanced side and India are in weaker position. This is best opportunity for Sri Lanka to go in for a kill. It should be interesting. Personally, I am disappointed that Rahul Dravid is still dragging his feet on retirement. He is 38, what is he waiting for?

Posted by S.N.Singh on (July 17, 2010, 22:05 GMT)

KNOWING THE POSITION WITH INDIA. I THINK THEY SHOULD GO INTO THIS GAME WITH THEIR THREE BEST SHINNERS AND ONE FAST BOWLERS. OR TAKE THE CHANCE WITH SIX BATSMEN , TWO MEDIUM PACE, GIVE THE 19 YEAR OLD A CHANCE WITH THREE SPINNERS I HARBHAJAN, OJHA, AND MISRA. OR SEVEN BATSMEN , THREE SPINNERS AND INSHANIAT, OPEN THE BOWLING WITH HARBHAJAN OR YUVRAJ. IN THE OLD DAYS INDIA CARRIED THREE SPINNERS SUCCESSFULLY. THIS COULD BE TRY AGAIN ALTHOUGH THEY DO NOT HAVE TOP SPINNERS AND NO FAST BOWLER. WE ARE LOOKING AT A DRAWN TEST. INDIA WILL NOT BE ABLE TO BOWLED OUT SRI LANKA. AND SRI LANKA HAS A BETTER BOWLING SIDE. THE PROBLEM IS THAT THEY CAN BOWL OUT INDIA TWICE. GOOD LUCK TO INDIA. I AM AN INDIAN FANS. S.N.SINGH U.S.A.

Posted by Bharat_123 on (July 17, 2010, 20:48 GMT)

I feel that India are going to have to bowl extremly good to take 20 wickets with the bowlers that have been picked. SL are true lions at home and once someone like mahela or kumar get set they are hard nuts to crack. I am a huge Indian supporter but i always ask my self 1 question. Hindustan is so big but yet they have no genuine good bowlers to replace the likes of sreesanth and zaheer. It always puzzles me how a country that has so many problems 'Pakistan' can produce young bowlers like Mohammed Amir and India cannot produce anyone close. But hey our batting is our greatest weapon. Hopfully viru, sachin, gautum and the rest can score some runs.

Posted by   on (July 17, 2010, 20:35 GMT)

Mithun but no Irfan...srikanth is out of his mind

Posted by   on (July 17, 2010, 19:33 GMT)

india needs irfan pathan rp singh and praveen ashish they are good seamer they need chance why is mithun he doesn't have any kind of experience

Posted by Venkeer on (July 17, 2010, 19:04 GMT)

Well everyone is looking at bowling issues. I know everyone is going to pounce on me for saying this but lets look at Sachin's record in Srilanka!\

He has not been successfull at all at least in 2000s. He played 3 matches and has an average of 15.83 (with a highest score of 31). This doesn't augur well for a champion batsman.

Lets see if he is truly still the best batsmen of all times.

Posted by Winfried on (July 17, 2010, 18:35 GMT)

Five bowlers, given the conditions? Hot day, Harbhajan still weak after illness. Take both Mithun and Munaf? Or better yet, bring back Irfan Pathan!

Posted by   on (July 17, 2010, 17:56 GMT)

india's bowling suckzzzz, indian team is in recession too it lacks bowlers quality bowlers

Posted by msport on (July 17, 2010, 17:34 GMT)

With one of de worst fast bowling attack India is still no.1 so they should by replaced by aussies.This series is outside india so it will be tough for india 2 win.Hope srilanka will give nice punch on their face n kick them to no.3 n aus will win de series against pak n be no.1.No.1 tag is not suitable to india seeing their bowlers.I m 100 percent sure that from now series which r outside india ll climb down de ladder.

Posted by   on (July 17, 2010, 17:04 GMT)

India will definitely loose this time, they have a Test team with county 2nd division bowlers. All the best

Posted by   on (July 17, 2010, 16:18 GMT)

the bowling is the same both sides have weaker bowlers..but wen it comes to batting india is miles ahead...i would be shocked if india fail to win this series!!!

Posted by knowledge_eater on (July 17, 2010, 15:26 GMT)

Part time bowlers heroic is the key for India now. Sehwag and Yuvi might need to get some break through if Bhajji doesn't fire. Dhoni have to protect Bhajji from wearing out, I am sure he will. I am dreaming now but something inside me tells me Indian bowlers are going to shock Lankans, they were playing fake cricket in practice match like they always do..... oooohhhh We will wait and see. hahaha I am nervous now. Good Luck

Posted by   on (July 17, 2010, 14:55 GMT)

it will be tough for india on this series. if SL wins the toss and piles 500 plus runs against this wekest bowling attack, veeru et al will be under tremendous pressure to respond in a meaningful manner. SL are really lions at home; the best that can hope is to draw the seies either 0-0 or 1-1 and a draw.

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