Indian pacers' poor form shouldn't be overlooked just because team is doing well as a unit

Bhuvneshwar Kumar (left), Ishant Sharma (centre) and Vinay Kumar have either not taken enough wickets in recent series or their averages have been well over the top with the ball or both © AFP

By Aayush Puthran

A weakness doesn’t eat you up all of a sudden; it creeps in slowly, and if not treated on time, it destroys you completely. In a team sport, success of a few is a good disguise for the failures of others, when the results are in your favour. Despite a string of brilliant performances, India needs to beware of being found out in South Africa, not merely because they are playing a much stronger side, but also because not all their mechanisms are providing optimum results.
Over the last few matches, barring Mohammed Shami, there have been little inspiring shows by the Indian pacers. Their failings are well hidden by the way the batsmen have taken the opposition bowlers to the cleaners and some neat job by the spinners to keep a check on the run-flow and pick up wickets.
R Vinay Kumar was the highest wicket-taker for India among pacer in the previous One-Day International (ODI) series against Australia with eight scalps. However, he leaked almost eight runs an over. Shami was impressive with his seven-wicket haul in the series. But after him, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ishant Sharma were the next best in the list with two wickets apiece. The stats of the two lanky bowlers do not speak pleasantly. While the former averaged 117 with the ball in five matches, the latter averaged 94.50 in three matches.

Indian pacers’ performances in ODI series against Australia

Player M Wkts Ave ER
R Vinay Kumar 5 8 43.12 7.93
Mohammed Shami 3 7 22.85 6.62
Bhuvneshwar Kumar 5 2 117 5.44
Ishant Sharma 3 2 94.50 7.87
Jaydev Unadkat 1 0 5.16

Even as the pitches didn’t offer any help to the fast bowlers, it paints a sorry state. Their show in the West Indies series too has been below par, if Shami is not considered. More than the stats, it is the way they have been straying all over the wicket, which is a matter of concern.
As they prepare to tour South Africa, these chinks need to be assessed and worked upon. Or else, they are bound to be exposed. Maybe the decision to include Zaheer Khan in the Test squad might help them iron out a few creases.
With a packed schedule ahead going into the ICC World Cup 2015, it is essential that all the five above mentioned bowlers, plus Umesh Yadav and Mohit Sharma, who are on the bench are rotated well and they gain form ahead of the mega tournament. If the selectors have indeed put their trust on these seven bowlers as long-term investments for the national side, their poor form shouldn’t be overlooked just because the team is doing well as a unit.

(Aayush Puthran is a reporter with CricketCountry. Mercurially jovial, pseudo pompous, perpetually curious and occasionally confused, he is always up for a light-hearted chat over a few cups of filter kaapi!)