Bhuvneshwar Kumar (in picture) and Shami Ahmed have proved their worth for India by doing well in the absence of the experienced Zaheer Khan © PTI
By Prakash Govindasreenivasan
The sight of a young Bhuvneshwar Kumar swinging the ball both ways and setting up the opposition batsmen was truly heartening. A feisty spell from the 23-year old Shami Ahmed on his debut against Pakistan and a hard-working Parvinder Awana’s splendid domestic record are reasons enough to believe that an Indian bowling attack, sans the experience of Zaheer Khan, can finally power through. But does the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) have a plan for them?
India has not been known for producing fast quality bowlers. The country is known for producing legendary batsmen and master spinners. The repercussions of a poor line-up of fast bowlers showed in two of India’s most horrendous tours abroad in 2011. While it is encouraging to see youngsters like Bhuvneshwar, Shami and Awana get international opportunities based on their domestic record, there needs to be a plan in place to ensure that they are in the scheme of things for the 2015 World Cup.
The Indian team came a long way from their first-round exit in the 2007 World Cup to triumph in the 2011 World Cup. The team saw a monumental change in almost every aspect of their game, but the shortcomings in the fast bowling department remained, if not heightened.
The problem has not entirely been the lack of genuine fast bowlers. It has also been the way the board has handled them in case of injury or dip in form. A closer look at the career graph of the likes of Ashish Nehra, Munaf Patel and even Shantakumaran Sreesanth will show similar trends. All of them have suffered injuries and inconsistency, something that every fast bowler faces at some point in his career. But on their return, the BCCI failed to treat them well. The ones who were once considered a future prospect were struggling to find a place in the team. Sreesanth, despite his antics, deserves to be taken seriously. He bowls with a lovely seam position that makes him a threat on foreign conditions. After being a part of the team in the fateful tour of England in 2011, he was sidelined by an injury and was out of contention for national selection. After almost a year-and-a-half he has regained full fitness and is playing for Kerala in the Ranji Trophy. But does he have a future in the Indian side? Looking at past records of selection patterns, the answer is a sad NO.
The BCCI really needs to chalk out a plan with an eye on the World Cup 2015 in Australia and New Zealand, where fast bowlers could make the difference. In the current scheme of things, the exciting likes of Bhuvneshwar and Shami will be long lost before India even starts defending their title. A plan needs to be drafted that will allow the board to monitor their growth. With the number of talented bowlers coming out from the domestic circuit, the board can make a pool of quick bowlers and give them enough opportunities to prove their worth before picking the best for the tournament in 2015.
The board has showed great intent by infusing youngsters into the national side after dropping the axe on veteran Zaheer. The most crucial move now would be to stick by the young guns irrespective of the result in the One-Day International (ODI) series against England and give them a long rope as India welcome Australia in February-March. This decision will be crucial in shaping the team for the tour to South Africa towards the end of the year. If they pull this off, it will be a giant leap towards improving the team’s performance in foreign conditions and build a strong side for the World Cup.
(Prakash Govindasreenivasan is an Editorial consultant at CricketCountry and a sports fanatic, with a soft corner for cricket. After studying journalism for two years, came the first big high in his professional life – the opportunity to interview his hero Adam Gilchrist and talking about his magnificent 149 in the 2007 World Cup final. While not following cricket, he is busy rooting for Chelsea FC)