West Indies v India, 1st Test, Kingston, 2nd day

'It didn't feel like my first Test' - Praveen Kumar

Sriram Veera at Sabina Park

June 21, 2011

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Praveen Kumar sends one down in his debut Test, West Indies v India, 1st Test, Kingston, 1st day, June 20, 2011
Swing is Praveen Kumar's key weapon, and he used it well to give India control © AFP
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Players/Officials: Praveen Kumar
Series/Tournaments: India tour of West Indies
Teams: India

"Khilake toh dekho (Give me a chance and then see)," Praveen Kumar had said around two years ago when asked about the perception that he is just an ODI bowler. He asked to explain that perception, and the explanation was given: That he doesn't have pace, that he can't be effective with the old ball, and that he can be restrictive but not wicket-taking. The eyebrows rose, a frown dented his face as he said "Khilake toh dekho. I bowl so many overs in the Ranji Trophy and don't I take wickets?" Not many were convinced. Even Jaidev Unadkat, without any experience in first-class cricket, played a Test ahead of him. It must have left him gutted.

All he offered today on the issue after a fine spell in the afternoon to go through the West Indies middle order was: "My job is just to bowl well." Praveen doesn't smile on a cricket ground. He swings the ball often, stares at the batsmen sometimes and lingers on in the middle of the pitch at times with hands on his hips. He looks as if he is angry with the world. Beyond the boundary, though, he smiles if he knows you. "Hasao mat (Don't make me laugh)," he says as he walks into the press meet today.

"It felt good. The ball was swinging both ways. I didn't feel like I was playing my first Test. There were no nerves. I just went according to the plan. I just wanted to concentrate on line and length and for me the ball should swing." It did today. Ask Adrian Barath. The ball curved towards the line of the stumps and then jagged away and took the edge of a batsman who was past his fifty.

All that ODI experience wouldn't have hurt and Praveen was in rhythm today. If "shape" is the mantra for Raina, "rhythm" is the magic word for Praveen. "Sometimes it comes in two overs; sometimes it takes four," Praveen said. "Here, since it's hot, you have to build that rhythm quickly."

Darren Bravo was his next. Again, the ball moved away fractionally to clip the outside edge, before he had Brendan Nash, caught off a leading edge in the slips. Praveen was flowing and a five-for on debut looked within his reach, but he was prevented from bowling further in the innings as he ran on to the danger area thrice. "I was just focussing on what I am bowling and didn't focus on running on pitch and stuff. This is the first time it's happened in my career. It's good that I learned it in my first innings itself."

Some might yet not be convinced that he is a Test bowler. What'll happen if the conditions don't suit him? What if he doesn't get the ball to move? Only time will tell. More empirical evidence is needed, of course. He has managed to move the ball in domestic cricket in Indian conditions, though. Many felt he had to lift his pace. "He has to increase his pace a bit and not lose his swing obviously," former India allrounder Manoj Prabhakar, who called him a 'jadugar' (magician), had told ESPNcricinfo more than two years ago. "Then he can trouble international batsmen consistently. I faced such a problem in my early days. I am not talking about express pace or sacrificing it for swing but a little more - that combination of pace and swing hurts the batsman."

It's something many others have told him. During the IPL in South Africa, Kevin Pietersen, Praveen's captain then, urged him to build some muscle and crank up some pace. "Just five to 10 kmph more. No one can touch you." It's an eminently sensible piece of advice, but India has seen one swing bowler in Irfan Pathan falter due to an obsession with pace. Maybe Praveen is wary of going down that route. He just quietly nodded at Pietersen that day, with a smile.

Today, he left the press conference with a smile. What will be a good score for India? "Utna mere ko idea nahi hai. Hoga jitna bi hoga (I have no idea, whatever will happen will happen)." For a man who doesn't smile much on the field, he always brings a smile on your face beyond it.

Sriram Veera is a staff writer at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Karthik_CricketFan on (June 24, 2011, 6:57 GMT)

I do not want Sreesanth in the English tour.

Posted by Finn92 on (June 23, 2011, 11:30 GMT)

I think he could be useful in English conditions and could trouble our batsman a bit, but when it's a good day to bat his lack of pace will be his downfall.

Posted by   on (June 22, 2011, 19:58 GMT)

@Krishna Darooka: Are you one of those from Windies who's irked to see an Indian bowler swinging the ball very well n taking wickets..!

Haha, seriously dude, wat'r u sayin..! This guy has played his first innings and he must've been thrilled with having got wickets... And after tat he must've felt damn bad as he was not allowed to bowl again in the inns, so no five for on debut...

And u'r saying, drop him, send him back, bring in an enquiry bla bla bla.... Huh, Come on, Shut this dude...@Krishna Darooka: Are you one of those from Windies who's irked to see an Indian bowler swinging the ball very well n taking wickets..!

Haha, seriously dude, wat'r u sayin..! This guy has played his first innings and he must've been thrilled with having got wickets... And after tat he must've felt damn bad as he was not allowed to bowl again in the inns, so no five for on debut...

And u'r saying, drop him, send him back, bring in an enquiry bla bla bla.... Huh, Come on, Shut this dude

Posted by   on (June 22, 2011, 19:16 GMT)

However the fact that he was suspended shows he is not prepared for the test

How can he commit the same mistake three times ,as a punishment he should be dropped in the next test and enquiry be made how did he commit the mistake three times ,was he stubborn not to listen to the umpire and in that case he should be sent back and replacement may be asked for. However don't get Zahir as a replacement since he opted out from the tour

Posted by priyankpradeep on (June 22, 2011, 17:25 GMT)

About a few days back in a comment to an article on this site i had said that for his ability to move the ball both ways PK should be considered for tests. Good to see him getting a chance and even more delighted to see him grabbing it the way many of his fans would have wanted him to. And i think knowing the fact that ball will swivel in England, it would only be wise to retain him in team even if Sree and Zak and others are back. i think the length he balls, Slightly Full Good Length, makes it difficult for the batsmen to make adjustments on movements. i find PK as a cunning and smart cricketer, grumpy but effective.

Posted by sarga2006 on (June 22, 2011, 15:36 GMT)

i am 100% sure tat england will fail in ta seres with india. PK wont be effective with a good team and dont praise Bhajji for his bating efforts. He can do that only agnst weak teams like Windies or NewZea.For england Andrson,Broad and Swann will bleed a lot of runs.Only Tremlett can bowl properly for them. In tha bating department Strauss is tottaly out of form and i am surer they will fail as a team altogether.

Posted by Cricket_is_soul on (June 22, 2011, 14:31 GMT)

Hi Cricker lovers, It's great that india is performing well at this moment. For english tour Praveen, ishant, Munaf and sSeeshanth should find a rotational selction in the 4test series spearheaded by Zaheer. I think this makes a world class attack to dismantle the english. Also we have a controlled bunch of fast medium bowlers. Surely they can be handy in the english Summer.

Posted by abhijithbhandari on (June 22, 2011, 14:11 GMT)

World cup missed due to injury, Test cap worn due to sreeshant injured.Migt be a co incident,but he has proved that he got lot talents.His excellent bowling spell gave India an edge in this match. Certainly India will win this match, Around 280 plus target is not bad but 3rd day;s first session is all important.Rahul and kohli must stand at least till the lunch,so the rest will be easy for India.Dhoni has to show courage to declare inning by the drinks and pick up at least one or 2 wickets in early overs. Let us see what happens.

Posted by inswing on (June 22, 2011, 13:43 GMT)

PK seems like a very effective bowler and should be given more chances. If attempts of increase pace result in loss of line, length and rhythm, and cause injuries, that would be disastrous. Let him be his own style of bowler rather than trying to make him fit in a standard. You don't ask Malinga to bowl with upright arm, you don't ask Kumble to work on spinning the ball more. PK might well be effective as he is.

Posted by   on (June 22, 2011, 13:27 GMT)

w think praveen has swing no speed thats fine even zak has cut down pace to swing and reverse swing he is good bowler he was no 2 odi bowler before wc unfournetly he missed due to injury and undeservingly sreeshant got chance and medal and he can be a good test bowler and also in odi he should be finished by over 40 by dhoni aas he is more useful there my team for eng test - v sehwag , g gambhir ,r dravid ,s tendulkar ,vvs ,yuvi ,ms ,bhajji ,zak,i sharma and sreeshant/praveen kumar whoever ms is more comfortable as a indivual subs pujara,kholi,raina (to give exposure 3 to test match cricket with red ball in eng conditons sreeshant/praveen kumar (whoever doesnt play) m patel p patel(rwc) a mishra and p ojha

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