By Nishad Pai Vaidya
It has been a rocky passage for the Indian ship since the 2011 World Cup. There have been moments when they pulled off jaw-dropping triumphs, but some of the shocking defeats have taken the sheen off those moments and exposed the glaring chinks in the armour. The pace bowling department in particular has been the Achilles heel, with an unsettled make-up to the whole line-up. To make matters worse, Indian spearhead Zaheer Khan’s form also plummeted, leaving the attack without a guiding force.
Since the end of the 2011 World Cup, a number of pacers have featured in ODIs for India and none of them have established themselves in the long run. There has been a lot of chopping and changing.
Here are the records of all the fast-bowlers who have played for India since April 2011:
|Bowler||M||Wkts||Avg||Eco||4 wkts||5 wkts||Best|
(Note: Part-timers haven’t been included)
A shocking fact is that Indian fast-bowlers have recorded only two four-wicket hauls and a solitary fifer after the World Cup final. The averages are also on the higher side and that shows that there has been a lot of inconsistency.
India have played 40 ODIs since April 2011 and this table shows that Vinay Kumar and Praveen Kumar are the only ones who have played at least 50 per cent of those matches. A lot of bowlers have come and gone in the said time interval – almost as if a game of musical chairs was in progress. As a result, there has been a lot of disturbance and the team has had to contend with new faces every series.
Consider this example, in Sri Lanka last year, India’s fast-bowling attack was: Zaheer Khan, Umesh Yadav, Irfan Pathan and Ashok Dinda. Out of the quartet, only Dinda made it through to India’s next ODI assignment – which was against Pakistan. Irfan and Yadav got injured, whereas Zaheer was dropped. Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shami Ahmed came in to replace the other three.
The most recent example of poor handling has been Shami. He did well on debut against Pakistan at Delhi and yet found himself out of the side for the next ODI. Bhuvneshwar Kumar has also been very impressive and has got a longer run. But, what will happen to all these bowlers once the more established bowlers recover from injuries. Will they make way for Irfan and Vinay?
Praveen is another bowler who has been a victim of poor handling. He had been fairly consistent and was providing the early breakthroughs. During the disastrous tour to England, he did his reputation no harm. However, things changed once India went to Australia – where he didn’t have a very good run. A below par performance in the Asia Cup was enough for the selectors to axe him.
Rudra Pratap Singh was a surprise inclusion for the England tour as the team struggled with injuries. Initially he looked out of place, but when it looked like he was getting into his rhythm – he was dropped. Nurturing him then would have made more sense as he was settling into his role.
In the two years leading up to the 2011 World Cup, India more or less had a settled pace unit. Ashish Nehra played majority of the games and led the attack. Praveen too was a regular feature and although India tried out a few options, the core of the fast-bowling department didn’t change. Zaheer was wrapped in cotton wool and taken care of with an eye on the Cup.
With two years to go for the next World Cup in Australia, India have to ensure they have at least two bowlers who would be settled in the line-up. They certainly wouldn’t want to go into that tournament with an uncertain attack and have to adopt a strategy similar to the one they employed before the previous event.
Injuries and poor form are inevitable. However, it is in the team management’s control to handle the players better and get the most out of them. Indian cricket needs a revival and all the departments have to take charge.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)