By Karthik Parimal
After being pummeled in the first three Tests against England, the uninspiring Indian bowling, yet again, failed to stamp its authority on the first day of the fourth Test. Although the Indians didn’t deliver as a unit, they could have tasted success in this series with a little extra effort and a determined performance by the bowlers. India’s batting was the team’s forte and it eclipsed the shortcomings in the bowling department until this series. A decline in performance was inevitable once the batting line-up failed and this was evident in the first three Tests.
It is a known fact that India has relied heavily on Zaheer Khan and was bound to struggle in his absence. Praveen Kumar and Ishant Sharma look promising, but they still lack consistent efficiency. If India are to compete equally well against other top teams in the future, home or away, they will have to strengthen their bowling unit. This process should begin immediately; else they risk the possibility of going rapidly downhill. There is no dearth of fine bowlers in India; it’s just that the selectors haven’t been bold enough to give them an opportunity in a series as big as this.
It isn’t necessary to have just quality fast bowlers for India to succeed. Ravichandran Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha are possibly India’s best emerging spinners presently with immense potential. It was shocking to see Ashwin ignored, especially when it was clear that Harbhajan Singh’s bowling was like a flat beer. Amit Mishra has performed well at the domestic level and rightfully earned his spot in the Test squad. However, he tends to get rattled when pushed to a corner, whereas Ashwin has the ability to attack and catch batsmen off-guard with his variations - even under pressure.
Pragyan Ojha, too, isn’t apprehensive to flight the ball, thereby increasing the possibility of taking a wicket.
Ian Chappell was right when he said, “Previous champions like West Indies and Australia not only had four top-class bowlers in their sides, but also a couple of replacements who would have been frontline bowlers in most other Test teams. India has mostly only fielded three good Test bowlers, but all are mostly inconsistent.” Surprisingly, there are no back-up plans for India’s fast bowling concerns. The head-honchos must realize that India will be in troubled waters once Zaheer Khan hangs up his boots. Hence, it’s time to introduce young bowlers to the international arena.
Varun Aaron is one who consistently bowls at 140 kmph plus. He is just what India has been craving for in the fast bowling department and a fiercely quick bowler who has vowed to never compromise on his pace. Aaron can be a bright prospect for the future if he is groomed in a right manner. Aaron caught the eye of many as he, and India, finished on a successful note at the Emerging Players tournament in Australia recently.
Umesh Yadav, too, is an exciting prospect and can consistently bowl above 140 kmph. He is fairly new and has the ability to learn quickly from his mistakes. He is inconsistent with his line and length under pressure, but can be a force to reckon with if he is guided properly. Yadav, too, was a part of India’s Emerging Players squad and although his performances weren’t catchy, they were decent.
Vinay Kumar and Jaidev Unadkat are known names and have made their presence felt in the domestic competitions and the Emerging Players Tournament. Vinay Kumar can be lethal with the new ball and his variations. His slower bouncer has been an effective weapon especially in the shorter formats. Jaidev Unadkat couldn’t impress in the one Test match he was selected for but promises better performances if he is given more opportunities. This was evident from his good outing at the Emerging Players Tournament. Also, Iqbal Abdulla is a fine spinner who has carved a niche for himself in the domestic circuit with his exceptional performances.
It is obvious that there is no scarcity of talented bowlers in India. All it needs is a right approach to make proper use of the resources available in the bowling department. India can become a much stronger unit if its bowling is hardened.
(If cricket is a religion and has many devotees, Karthik Parimal would be a primary worshipper. This 23 year old graduate student, pursuing his Masters in Engineering, could be an appropriate example of how the layers of what inspires, motivates and keeps one happy run deeply in our daily lives. He, unlike others, is not too disappointed about not making it big by playing for the country, but believes that he plays the sport every day with his heart by watching and writing on it)