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.

Irfan replaces Vinay Kumar

Irfan Pathan replaces Vinay Kumar for the Sri Lankan ODI series to begin later this month. Vinay Kumar suffered from an hamstring injury and has been ruled out for 3 weeks. The addition of Irfan for sure is a blessing for India as this gives them an all-round option in the line up.

Speaking to the press after the announcement Irfan said he is ready for the series and hopes to give his best.

“Obviously, when I was overlooked initially, I was thinking about what are the areas I needed to work upon and was focusing on my training at the National Cricket Academy,” Irfan told PTI.

“I am pretty satisfied with the hours that I have put in at the nets and in the indoor sessions there. After this call-up, the focus will shift to the Lankan series.”

Irfan will be hoping for a good show in this series and would hope to cement his place in the ODI X1. He seemed to have his swing back when he played in the Asia cup earlier this year and his batting would be a definite advantage for the Indian team lower down the order.

“I played 8 ODIs after my comeback and have got 13 wickets. I have scored around 100 runs in the five innings that I have batted. For someone like me, the more I play international matches, the better I will get,” signed off Irfan.

 

 

Can Umesh and Aaron break the trend?

Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron will have their tasks cut off when the grueling Indian season begins in a month’s time

Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron were like a breath of fresh air when they took the new ball against the touring West Indies side at home. Both bowled with extreme pace troubling the West Indies batters on pretty flat wickets in India. Both bowlers capable of bowling in the excess of 150 will now have to concentrate on cementing their place in the Indian squad. The Indian fast bowling cupboard has not been fuller than the last decade or so. We had fast bowlers appearing left right and center only to disappear after a year.

We have had bowlers with enormous talent making their debuts, only to lose their way within a year. The reason to the same has never been analyzed. Talented bowlers like Irfan Pathan, Munaf Patel, and RP Singh etc… All had a great beginning to their career only to lose their way and finally disappear from the radar. When Umesh Yadav came on to the scene, I was little skeptic. India plays a lot of cricket throughout the year including the IPL and champions League. For a bowler to remain fit through this grueling schedule requires meticulous planning from the team management as well the bowler himself. It is not an easy task.

But after almost a year, Umesh has done quite well to withstand the pressure and has still maintained his speed. This shows that the boy has great work ethic and tremendous fitness. Aaron though wasn’t that lucky, he missed the Australia tour due to injury but made a good comeback bowling at 150 k’s even after his return in the IPL. These two have for sure have for now broken the trend of Indian bowlers losing their pace.

The next hurdle to cross will be to pass the grade from promising to good. This will be something which will separate them from the rest of the pack. Umesh Yadav had a great start to his test career and was very impressive in Australia. Aaron too had a decent debut test against the West Indies. Fast bowlers need to be looked after. There are only a hand full currently in international cricket who can bowl 90+ mph consistently. The Indian think tank needs to understand that. Aaron and Umesh are the future of Indian bowling and I hope the rigorous schedule of the Indian team does not consume them too.

It will be interesting to see how these to shape up in the coming year or two. It will be interesting to see if the Indian think tank has the courage to play both these players together in the test team. India has finally found genuine pace bowlers and my hope is that we don’t lose them to mismanagement and greed once again.

Bowling worries for India ahead of the first test

India is about to begin their test series against Australia in few days and as it was in England earlier this year; the team is struggling with injuries. India had lost Varun Aaron and Praveen Kumar already before leaving the Indian shores and now it seems like Ishant Sharma would also struggle to make to the test team. If Ishant misses out India might field a very inexperience attack unless the replacement/cover is Irfan Pathan.

This scenario makes the presence of Zaheer very important for India throughout the series.

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Irfan Pathan the missing piece

The venue was Sydney and it was the 4th test of a fascinating series between India and Australia. Irfan Pathan who made his debut for India earlier in the series was bowling to Steve Waugh with Australia comfortably placed at 311/4. Pathan bowled a quick full outswinger which took the outside edge of Steve Waugh’s bat and watching that I thought here is another brilliant quick bowler for the future. Pathan then bowled Adam Gilchrist with a searing Yorker which reminded me of Zaheer’s debut against Kenya few years back.

Pathan was a brilliant find for India then. A bowler capable of swinging the ball both ways at speeds in the excess of 140 + was something India were looking for.

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Are talents from weaker domestic teams being looked at?

No fast bowlers, No all rounders, No spinners and basically no bowlers is what we are made to believe by the selectors with the kind of selections we have been seeing in the past few years. So my question is that 20 odd domestic teams in our first class set up and we are saying that there is no bowler who is half decent at the international level?which is kind of hard to believe. I guess it’s time for the selectors to expand their horizons a little bit and tap the talent in the lesser fancied teams.

If Assam plays Mumbai in the Ranji trophy and a bowler from Assam takes a 5+ wickets in the game and ends up as one of the leading wicket takers of the season with good average and strike rate, shouldn’t he be looked at more seriously? Players representing weaker teams will most often be pitted against a stronger opposition which according to me makes their performance much more worthwhile. The player I am talking about is Sachin Rana from Haryana, the guy averages 33 with the bat and 22 with the ball at the domestic level in 35 first class games, have we ever heard of him? I guess never.

He is not even been considered for any A tours or even the Emerging players trophy. I thought that we are desperately in search of an all-rounder. How will we know if he is any good at all without giving him any opportunity? I am guessing there would be lots of Rana’s in the domestic setup who would have fallen through the cracks due to our selection process. I guess unless you are playing for a high profile team you will not be noticed. Over the past 6-7 years the selectors have not looked past Irfan Pathan for the all-rounder spot. God knows how many still play or have played for teams like Himachal, Jammu and Kashmir, Assam etc who were never even looked at.

Looking at the domestic averages for 2009/10 season, apart from the regular bowlers there are other bowlers who have topped the list like Abid Nabi, Abu Nechim and Sanjay Budhwar. These bowlers have been very good this season and have overall better or comparable records to the other bowlers who have been considered often for the National team or for A tours. I understand that it is difficult for the selectors to sit through and watch all the games but how difficult is to look at the top performers for a particular season and then pick a squad based on that for various A tours? It seems like unless you perform in IPL, you will not get noticed by the selectors.

I am not saying that any of the above players will be the solution to India’s problems but unless we try them out how will we know if they are any good? All these guys have performed very well for their respective domestic teams and have been consistent over couple of seasons. If India wants to unearth a gem, they need to dig deeper than to just look at the high profile teams. Politics and regionalism not withstanding India might have already found some solutions.

I am just hoping that good talents don’t get lost due to the shortsightedness of our selectors and players with potential get opportunities no matter whom they play for. I hope players like Sachin Rana, Abu Nechim, and Abid Nabi get a chance to prove their potential at a higher level. I would have expected to see such promising youngsters in the Emerging players squad rather than seeing Parthiv Patel who has already represented India at the highest level considerably and is for sure not an emerging player. Unless our selectors wake up to this fact we will not see quality bowlers/All-rounders in the near future.

Mysterious ways of the Indian selectors

When India decided to send a second string team to Zimbabwe, everyone in unison was in approval of the same as the Indian team has a packed schedule ahead of the World cup. But what transpired as the final squad left everyone little bit bemused. There were three squads announced, one for the ODI tri series, and the other for the T20 and finally the squad for India A tour to England.

One thing which was noticeable with all the three squads was that most of the players selected weren’t even in fray to make it to the national squad. People like Ishant, Irfan, Munaf, Sreesanth, Yuvraj and few others were ignored in the squads selected. This is the fact which makes us question the planning by the BCCI and the selectors. Now the team for Sri Lanka has been selected and Ishant and Sreesanth have been included in the same. Both of them have been cooling their heels for some time now and are coming in with zero match practice.

The A tours should be used to give much needed practice to the fringe players but that is not the case with the squad currently playing in England. This would have been a perfect platform for someone like Irfan Pathan to get back into form. The BCCI have also denied the contracted players from playing the county cricket, which means that during the domestic offseason, the players have basically no match practice. So on what basis are the players getting picked in the national squad? What have Yuvraj, Ishant or Sreesanth done to make a comeback in the squad, since they were dropped?

Cheteshwar Pujara’s non inclusion is also shocking. The youngster has been piling on the runs like a machine over the past couple of years and he is nowhere in the vicinity of a National selection. We have listened to countless experts speaking about him as the future of Indian batting but for some reason the selectors don’t think so. The guy is 22 years old, scoring hundreds at will wherever he plays and for me should have been in the squad to Sri Lanka. Saha’s selection over Dinesh Karthik is another baffling one as the keeper from Tamil Nadu would have been ideal as a backup keeper and a opener in case of an injury to either of the first choice openers.

With the world cup less than a year away, the selectors have to really wake up to the fact that we don’t have a settled set of 15-20 players to pick from for the major event. The selections over the past year or so have been pretty inconsistent and I hope that it changes over the coming months as India is playing a lot of cricket before the 2011 world cup.