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Right arm, over the 'sticky' wicket!

Tuesday, January 31, 2022
Sticky Wicket

A fit Zaheer Khan finally achieved a rare feat at Adelaide. No, not a match winning effort, not even a milestone but that extra mile in the series which he travelled, served as an achievement and accomplishment of sorts for the team management and the bowler.

At a time when India’s strike bowler, in a high profile series, was convincing the cricket world about his fitness, the rest were battling form, injury and consistency in line and Length. This is Indian bowling at its very worst for you! A situation throwing up innumerable questions with no real answers.

46 Australian wickets in 4 Test matches, compared to 80 wickets conceded by India is indication of India’s bowling depth and strength.

Zaheer at 33 is now looked upon as India’s spear head at the moment, but do we see him travelling with this Indian Test side for an overseas Test series two years from now? At 35, will he be steaming in and adding the overs and wickets in his kitty? Let me remind you, he has the IPL, ODIs and a few home series to play as well, so for any wise man to put his money on Zaheer after 2 years will be foolhardiness.

The question that immediately arises is that in the absence of Zaheer Khan, Does India have a strike bowler? A sensible and practical cricket fan will admit, at the moment, this Indian pace attack looks the most vulnerable and wanting.

If Ishant Sharma bowled without any luck in Australia, then his facial expressions of self pity impressed no one. Neither did he find the length consistently nor did he add wickets to his tally. 45 Test matches for this lanky pacer, Is he still the future of Indian cricket, when his present is in shambles. Is he the right man to take over from Zaheer? For now, let us not even get there.

Young Umesh Yadav was always going to get the benefit of doubt. He is regarded as the future but sadly he is being fast tracked into all formats due to injuries, inconsistency in form. No doubt he is talented but Umesh needs the right kind of nurturing and at the moment, the nurturing first needs to be imparted to the so called nurtured.

The selectors put no thought into the selection and lack logic in inclusion and exclusion of bowlers. If Abhimanyu Mithun replaced an injured Praveen Kumar and Vinay Kumar later replaced an injured (very early in his career) Varun Aaron for the Australia Test series, then I fail to understand, why a tried campaigner lost out to a debutant at Perth. Though Vinay Kumar too would be feeling the same after that forgettable outing at the WACA. Enough indication that, not just the selectors but even the team management is skewed in their policies.

While India has often been blamed for its one dimensional attack, sadly in conditions like England and Australia, where bowlers thrive on such pitches, the Indian pacers, failed to hit the lengths frequently. This was after the Aussie quicks repeatedly out thought and out swung the Indian batsmen, inducing them to edge their down fall.

It was great to watch a new comer (in Tests) Praveen Kumar shine for Indian in England but it also revealed the darker side. The moment Zaheer broke down, India had no one. Sadly at a time when Irfan Pathan returns to the Indian fold, critics have already written him off citing the lack of pace and penetration in his bowling. This was after he had regained his lost swing, but is anyone interested?

India once had Munaf Patel, I say ‘Once had’ because, its time to say good bye to moody bowlers who lack athleticism in the middle. He may be a line and length bowler, but sadly he has his days and prefers to run in only when he feels like. More than breaking partnerships, he breaks down in the middle!

S Sreesanth is talent without temperament, Class without consistency and promise without performance. Its said ‘A still tongue makes a wise head’ and I so wish Sreesanth applied this on himself. By far, Sree has been the biggest disappointment in the bowling department. His inability to inspire himself to lead the attack and his ability to embrace inconsistency with perfection has been the biggest regret of Indian cricket.

Pace or Spin, India has been on a ventilator in the bowling department for quite some time now that’s because there is no thought put into the selection while picking India’s bowling attack. Harbhajan Singh after Anil Kumble turned into an all-rounder, this even as India banked on an attacking wicket taking spinner, Harbhajan’s middle and leg line welcomed R Ashwin only to find the going tough in Australia. Pragyan Ohja as always played the role of the spectator.

The rest like Ashish Nehra, RP SIngh, Piyush Chawla, Amit Mishra have all earned reputation and are living and surviving on name and brand rather than form and performance. So the questions are obvious; Who after Zaheer? Do we have bowlers to take 20 wickets? Ishanth, Sreesanth and Umesh, are they our best bet? What about Irfan, Praveen, Vinay, Abhimanyu? Are they one dimensional? Does India need to unearth better bowlers in the Domestic Circuit?

Let’s admit it. It’s a crisis in the Indian bowling department and India is on a sticky wicket. Its time to declare an emergency in the bowling department and its time the selectors work on their bowling reserves and invest in a leader of the attack. Every department is found wanting and bowling is no different. The case of misplaced priorities today defines this India bowling - an indifferent bunch of inconsistent bowlers, who are eager to travel the length and breath of international cricket without sticking to one length in the same breath.

Mikhail Vaswani

Mikhail Vaswani, an anchor and presenter with Neo Cricket. He hosts popular shows like Dial C for Cricket, Cricket Central and Sportszone.