Bowlers need to be nurtured, can BCCI step up?

Injury to Mohd Shami is a blessing in disguise as the Indian spearhead gets a well deserved rest after a grueling world cup.

Injury to Mohd Shami is a blessing in disguise as the Indian spearhead gets a well deserved rest after a grueling world cup.

Since 2000, India has had embarrassment of riches as far as fast bowling talent is concerned. From no good fast bowling option in the previous two decades, India ended up with too many in the last 15 years or so. Even though we had lots of bowlers except for Javagal Srinath and Zaheer khan, none of the Indian fast bowlers managed to go past 200 test wickets in the last 20 years. India has always found it difficult to manage fast men, in spite of the overseas bowling coaches, the ability of the bowlers after a promising starts dwindles away after a year or so.

The fitness is an issue, they drop pace and in some cases they lose their swing too. The list is endless, Irfan Pathan, Sreesanth, Munaf Patel, Nehra, RP Singh, Ishant Sharma etc. all fall under the same category. The recent interview of former Indian bowling coach Joe Dawes was interesting. He mentioned that the Indian bowlers bowl too much. The format they bowl in is also pertinent information. The 2 months of grueling IPL season followed by endless ODI games and then the CLT20 at the end of this year saps whatever energy the bowlers might have to be available for test cricket. Till the 90’s fast men used county cricket as their learning ground and were fairly successful at that.

India’s best two fast bowlers of the last 20 years Srinath and Zaheer owe their turnaround to county cricket. Srinath who was a one dimensional bowler until mid-90’s played a full season for Gloucestershire in 1995 and came back as a different bowler. Zaheer Khan who had lots of fitness and consistency issues came back a changed bowler after a full season of county cricket with Worcestershire in 2006. That trend has come to a halt now. Except for couple of short stints by Sreesanth and Agarkar, Indian players haven’t been allowed to play in county cricket by BCCI.

The Indian fast bowlers play in IPL instead which doesn’t help their development as test bowlers in any way. The jam packed international calendar means that the Indian bowlers don’t get to play in domestic first class games either. No wonder the Indian pacemen find it difficult to make an impact in the longer format as they have no experience bowling for that long. India’s current spearhead Mohd Shami who made his first class debut in 2010 has played a grand total of 30 first class games out of which 12 are tests for India. Varun Aaron whose first class debut was way back in 2008 has played a grand total of 30 first class games out of which 5 are tests. Mohit Sharma has 24 first class games to his credit, Ishant Sharma has 88 (61 of them are tests for India), Bhuvneshwar Kumar has 58 (First Class debut in 2007, 12 of 58 are tests) and Umesh Yadav has 40 (First class debut in 2008 and 12 of them are tests). So we see a pattern here.

Indian bowlers are over bowled in meaningless T20 games and ODI games which leave them no time to work on their chinks. The bowlers get paid hefty sum to get hit around the park in IPL, so they hardly have any motivation to work on their bowling at the test level. If India has any hopes of unearthing at least one good fast bowler, they need to keep these bowlers from playing in too many meaningless tournaments. After a long time India has finally found 3 bowlers who can bowl in upwards of 140 KMPH regularly with Aaron able to touch 150 KMPH. This is the right time for BCCI to invest in these bowlers and make sure they don’t fall by the wayside. India also has some young exciting fast bowlers like Sandeep Sharma and Anureet Singh who need to be nurtured.

It will be helpful for these bowlers to play in county cricket on helpful pitches to learn their trade rather than getting hammered around in the meaningless T20 leagues on flat pitches. These are exciting times for an Indian fan as for the first time we have bowlers who can bowl really fast but unless they are taken care properly we might lose them quicker than we realize. India’s international season starts right after the IPL and hopefully we will have the fast bowlers fit and available to be picked for India. The board and the coaches need to step up and work on keeping these bowlers fresh for international games. IPL is a good launch pad for young and upcoming players from domestic arena and it should stay that way. BCCI has enough finances to keep these young bowlers away from the T20 leagues and allow them to play more first class games which is the only way these bowlers are going to improve their skills. Let’s hope that things will change and the current crop can actually achieve what they set out to do and don’t become another Irfan or RP Singh.

Can India take care of the new crop of fast bowlers?

Fast bowlers are a rare breed in India. India haven’t had many world class fast men and have only 3 bowlers in their entire cricketing history who have gone past 200 test wickets. Zaheer Khan is the last fast bowler who has gotten anywhere close to being world class. In the 90’s India struggled to find a decent third seamer to consolidate the good first spells of Srinath and Prasad but at the end of the decade there were some promising additions. Zaheer was the first to emerge in 2000, followed by a plethora of young fast men who promised a lot but faltered to deceive in the long run.

The problem with the Indian pace men over the years has been their fitness. Ashish Nehra, Munaf Patel, Irfan Pathan, RP Singh, Sreesanth etc.  All began their career with lots of promise bowling quick and swinging the ball. But none of them were able to convert their earlier promise into performance over a sustained period of time. The trend is extremely disturbing. The emphasis on fitness is something which seems to be lacking in these fast men. Within just a year in international cricket, these bowlers have lost their fitness, pace and ability to swing the ball.

The number seems to be increasing over the years. In 2007 India possessed one of the best pace attack for a long time. Zaheer, Sreesanth and RP Singh bowling in the excess of 135 KMPH and swinging the ball both ways was a great sight for an Indian fan. The joy just lasted for a year before RP Singh lost his way and pace. Sreesanth has been plagued by injuries throughout his career. Ishant Sharma who bowled India’s fastest delivery in Australia and troubled the best batsmen in business with his length and bounce has lost the attributes which made him an instant success in his first year of international cricket.

It is hard to understand how a cricketing board can turn deaf to the problems causing this decline of the fast bowlers. Fitness is an important aspect for a bowler in International cricket. It is also important for the bowlers to keep evolving and learn new tricks as they advance their careers. The Indian pace men have faltered on both counts. The reason can be many and one of the most important reasons in the recent times has been the excessive cricket the bowlers have been subjected to. The IPL/CLT20 followed by countless international games can only break a bowler.

 Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav spend more time recouping from an injury than to play for their country. Playing excessive T20 games also gives no option for the bowlers to work on their bowling. The Indian board has to realize that Zaheer’s stint in county cricket in England was the reason for his evolution as one of the best bowler in the world for about 4 years. The BCCI has blocked that avenue too. The county cricket can be a great learning ground for these bowlers and will be much more beneficial than playing in meaningless T20 games in India.

Now we again have talented new crop of bowlers like B Kumar and Shami Ahmed and it will be interesting to see how the board handles these bowlers. The BCCI have the finances and resources to keep the promising Indian bowlers away from the T20 leagues and keep them fresh for International cricket. It will be great to have Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron, B Kumar, Sreesanth, Ishant Sharma, Praveen Kumar and Shami Ahmed fit and available for an international series. Constant cricket can only be detrimental to Indian cricket future. If India needs to become a force to reckon with at the international level we need a pool of good pace bowlers and this is the time to preserve the resources we have.

A greatly underrated cricketer II

When Srinath made his test debut in 1991 Kapil Dev was almost at the end of his career. Watching Srinath in that tour of Australia was a great experiance as he was by far the fastest Indian bowler at that time. The major problem with Srinath was his stamina in the initial part of his career. He could bowl really quick but always looked tired after a short spell. Srinath was also lucky to have started his career when Kapil was still leading India’s pace attack.
Srinath had a good tour of Australia and was in the team which went on a historic tour to South Africa later. Srinath when he made his debut was different from other Indian bowlers of that time. He was a bowler who hit the deck pretty hard and extracted plenty of bounce using his height and a strong action to his advantage. After the tour of SA, he dissapeared for over a year and returned after Kapil had hung up his boots in the 1994/95 season when WI toured India.

In the initial part of his career Srinath was a one dimensional bowler who mostly bowled in dippers to the right handers which made him very effective against the left handers. Brian Lara always had problems facing Srinath. I guess Srinath was one of the reasons why Brian Lara has a pretty modest record against the Indians. Later in his career Srinath developed a good slower delivery and a leg cutter which made him a more all round bowler at the international level.

Srinath was a perfect team man. His career was shortened due to injuries to his shoulder. Srinath’s career ran parallely with Glenn Mcgrath and Allan Donald. The major disadvantage for Javagal was that he never had the back up which both Mcgrath and Donald enjoyed in their respective teams. Most of the time Srinath was the only pace bowler in the dust bowls of India during the early 90’s when India prepared doctored pitches to suit their spinners.

Srinath lacked any support from the other end till Prasad made his debut in 1996. Srinath could have played more test matches and got more wickets if only India had good pace bowlers to support his initial bursts. He was particulary overbowled during the mid nineties under the captaincy of Sachin Tendulkar. He picked up his shoulder problem after the tour of SA in 1996/97 as he along with Prasad were the only bowlers who looked like taking any wickets on that tour. Srinath manfully toiled hard bowling long spells in mid and late nineties while the rest of the Indian bowlers except for Prasad turned up with mediocre perfromances abroad.
Srinath never got his due as a player as the Indian media is all about the batsmen in the team. Srinath retired after the 2003 WC without much fanfare. Srinath is only pacemen after Kapil Dev to have picked up 200 test wickets for India and the only Indian fast bowler to pick up 300 one day wickets. He was always a team man and stood up to be counted whenever his captain needed him. Srinath was always my favorite Indian bowler. India now can boast of a formidable pace attack with great bench strength which was not the case in the 90’s.

Srinath’s name may not figure in many “All time X1’s” but still he was one of the best India has ever had. I salute Srinath for his great contribution to Indian cricket and for being a wonderful team man that he was. I also wish him all the best in his new role as the ICC Match Refree. I am sure that he would perform this new role with the same passion and commitment as his did for team India as a player.

A greatly underrated cricketer II

Srinath - A team man to the core

Srinath - A team man to the core

When Srinath made his test debut in 1991 Kapil Dev was almost at the end of his career. Watching Srinath in that tour of Australia was a great experiance as he was by far the fastest Indian bowler at that time. The major problem with Srinath was his stamina in the initial part of his career. He could bowl really quick but always looked tired after a short spell. Srinath was also lucky to have started his career when Kapil was still leading India’s pace attack.

Srinath had a good tour of Australia and was in the team which went on a historic tour to South Africa later. Srinath when he made his debut was different from other Indian bowlers of that time. He was a bowler who hit the deck pretty hard and extracted plenty of bounce using his height and a strong action to his advantage. After the tour of SA, he dissapeared for over a year and returned after Kapil had hung up his boots in the 1994/95 season when WI toured India.

In the initial part of his career Srinath was a one dimensional bowler who mostly bowled in dippers to the right handers which made him very effective against the left handers. Brian Lara always had problems facing Srinath. I guess Srinath was one of the reasons why Brian Lara has a pretty modest record against the Indians. Later in his career Srinath developed a good slower delivery and a leg cutter which made him a more all round bowler at the international level.

Srinath was a perfect team man. His career was shortened due to injuries to his shoulder. Srinath’s career ran parallely with Glenn Mcgrath and Allan Donald. The major disadvantage for Javagal was that he never had the back up which both Mcgrath and Donald enjoyed in their respective teams. Most of the time Srinath was the only pace bowler in the dust bowls of India during the early 90’s when India prepared doctored pitches to suit their spinners.

Srinath lacked any support from the other end till Prasad made his debut in 1996. Srinath could have played more test matches and got more wickets if only India had good pace bowlers to support his initial bursts. He was particulary overbowled during the mid nineties under the captaincy of Sachin Tendulkar. He picked up his shoulder problem after the tour of SA in 1996/97 as he along with Prasad were the only bowlers who looked like taking any wickets on that tour. Srinath manfully toiled hard bowling long spells in mid and late nineties while the rest of the Indian bowlers except for Prasad turned up with mediocre perfromances abroad.

Srinath never got his due as a player as the Indian media is all about the batsmen in the team. Srinath retired after the 2003 WC without much fanfare. Srinath is only pacemen after Kapil Dev to have picked up 200 test wickets for India and the only Indian fast bowler to pick up 300 one day wickets. He was always a team man and stood up to be counted whenever his captain needed him. Srinath was always my favorite Indian bowler. India now can boast of a formidable pace attack with great bench strength which was not the case in the 90’s.

Srinath’s name may not figure in many “All time X1’s” but still he was one of the best India has ever had. I salute Srinath for his great contribution to Indian cricket and for being a wonderful team man that he was. I also wish him all the best in his new role as the ICC Match Refree. I am sure that he would perform this new role with the same passion and commitment as his did for team India as a player.