Bowlers need a mentor too

Zaheer Khan did excellently well as a mentor for young bowlers in the Delhi Daredevils team this season.

Zaheer Khan did excellently well as a mentor for young bowlers in the Delhi Daredevils team this season.

Rahul Dravid has been recently announced as the coach for the Indian A teams and the U-19 teams. This is great news for the Indian cricket fans as Rahul Dravid is an international great and has been often mentioned as a great mentor for young cricket players. Ajinkya Rahane and Sanju Samson have spoken highly about Rahul during his time as Rajasthan Royals captain. Dravid also has great eye for talent as he has spotted players like Rahane, Lokesh Rahul and Samson as future international prospects way before they were picked for India.

This is indeed as great move by BCCI after Rahul declined to be part of the advisory board which BCCI announced recently comprising of Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman. The only negative I see about all this is that there has been no bowler in sight in any of these panels. The Indian team as we all know has always struggled with the bowling and batting has never been a huge concern in the long run. India always churns out good batsmen and the advisory board consisting of only batting greats is disturbing. It would have been great if BCCI had requested Javagal Srinath or Zaheer Khan to be part of the U-19 and Indian coaching team to mentor the young bowlers.

Even though Zaheer hasn’t technically retired, it was seen that he was able to mentor young bowlers effectively in the IPL and looked like someone who could work with the U-19 bowlers and pass on some valuable tips. Zaheer and Srinath have been the best pace bowlers for Indian over the last 20 years and it will be great if the BCCI could use their expertise effectively. The advisory panel for the Indian team too needs a bowling component. If BCCI cannot find an Indian bowler to join the coaching or the advisory panel they should try and get an overseas coach. If India needs to become a force at the international level they need a good bowling unit.

The current crop needs guidance and help which will be paramount for their development. Young bowlers like Sandeep Sharma need the required support and advice before they make the transition to the national side. The Indian bowlers like Mohd Shami, Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron need to be groomed and be taken care. The BCCI has always ignored development of the bowlers and it is the same with the current advisory board. Even though this is a welcome change and a good initiative, it can be better.

I hope that new advisory board recommends such initiatives for the bowlers. Rahul Dravid is a smart individual and I hope that he includes a good bowling coach/mentor for the u-19 and India A teams. The bowlers need to be developed at the grass roots level and need good guidance from someone who understands fast bowling. Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly can be great asset to the coaching staff but again I would have loved to see a bowling component to the team. BCCI should work with the greats and come up with a plan to help the bowlers. If India does not take care of the current crop we will once again end up losing these great talents and end up looking for new brigade as we have been doing over the last 15 years. Hope some sense prevails and we see some development towards this in the coming months.

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.

Bowling a major concern on an already disappointing tour

Mahindra Singh Dhoni

Dhoni will be hoping for a better performance from the young team in the test matches

The ODI series was a major disappointment for the young Indian team. The Indian team which reached the New Zealand shores as number 1 in the world was knocked off the perch by the spirited hosts. The Indian team struggled on the field with the ball and their much celebrated batting lineup failed to get the team out of the hole this time. The bowling attack has been extremely disappointing and as Dhoni said the team is still not certain about the bowling combination for the world cup in 2015.

The pacers were not able to stem the flow of runs and the spinners were not able to get the breakthroughs in the middle overs. Mohd Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar started all the games well with wickets at the top but lost steam in the middle and later overs. The third seamer was extremely disappointing too. Varun Aaron and Ishant Sharma both went for plenty of runs and it is extremely difficult to imagine who will be part of the Indian team in a year’s time.

The spin department struggled to get wickets on this tour. Jadeja and Ashwin comparatively were economical to the rest of the attack but they hardly picked any wickets in the 5 games they played. Even though Ashwin and Jadeja lengthen the Indian batting order, their primary job is bowling and it seems like they would not be that effective overseas. India needs to find spinners who can pick up wickets in the middle overs along with containing the batsmen. The New Zealand batsmen were never in any pressure to accelerate as the bowling was extremely pedestrian and allowed the batsmen lots of freebees to score their runs from.

The batting too was extremely disappointing. Rohit Sharma and Dhawan struggled throughout and so did the middle order of Rahane and Raina. India dropped Raina in the later part of the series and Rayudu was reasonably okay but never kicked on after starts. The Shining lights of Indian batting again were Kohli and Dhoni. The both of them were the reason why India got closer in all the games. This has thrown lots of Indian plans haywire as this series has shown that the Indian ODI side is not as effective overseas as they would have imagined.

India would be defending their title in less than year in New Zealand and Australia and this series should mark as a wakeup call. The bowling attack needs to be seriously looked at and it will be interesting as to what changes we can see for the next all important tour to England. The test series which begins in a day will give the young Indian team to perform better and salvage something from an already disastrous tour. The batting has a chance to redeem themselves in the test series but the bowling will be the one on the scanner again.

It will be interesting to see who will partner Zaheer Khan and Mohd Shami in the first test. Umesh Yadav should be in the top of the pile to be considered for the first test. Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ishwar Pandey will be fighting for one spot if India plans to go with 4 pacers. India would also be picking from Ashwin and Jadeja as the lone spinning all-rounder in the squad. Jadeja was excellent in South Africa and the only concern for Dhoni will be his batting. Ashwin hasn’t bowled well in the last couple of months so it will be a hard decision for the think tank to make.

The test series will begin tomorrow and India need to perform well to salvage something out of this tour. India got very close to winning the first test in South Africa and Dhoni will be hoping that the team would bounce back from the disappointing ODI series. The Indian test team looks more settled than the ODI team. The inclusion of Pujara will be very reassuring for the middle order and Rahane might get pushed up the order to accommodate another pacer in the squad. It will be an interesting series between two young sides and both teams would be hoping for great performance in the coming few days..

Problems galore for team India

Indian bowling has always been under the scanner. Every premier tournament starts with same concerns for India and this time is no different. In the 2011 World Cup India’s bowling was brilliantly led by Zaheer Khan. He was not only economical but also ended up as the highest wicket taker of the tournament. Zaheer also received great support from Nehra and Munaf in the crucial games.

The biggest issue for Indian in the ongoing T20 World Cup is the lack of form Zaheer has displayed. He has struggled with the new ball and his death bowling has been awful. The important thing to note is that Zaheer has never been a great T20 bowler. He has always struggled even in the IPL to control the flow of runs. The other two pacers have struggled too. Irfan Pathan has gone for runs and so has Balaji. The Afghanistan match was an eye opener where the pace bowlers were largely ineffective with the new ball.

So India currently just relies on Ravichandran Ashwin and the part-time spin of Yuvraj Singh to put the brakes on the scoring. This is surely not an ideal scenario and for sure not a strategy for a team which is considered as one of the favorites to win it all. India does have Dinda in the dugout who probably could get a look in. Even though Dinda hasn’t played too many international games he seems to be someone suited for the shorter formats. He has a decent international record in the few games he has played and his IPL record is impressive. So India should look to play him in the game against England and probably rest Zaheer for a game? This is something which the think tank needs to weigh in before the super 8’s start.

The selectors have ignored Praveen who would have been handful in Sri Lankan conditions and also someone like Munaf Patel would have been an asset. The lack of Yorkers in the bowling armory of the Indian pacers is disappointing. India has more often than not gone at 10-11 runs an over against good sides in the death overs.

The other major issue for the Indian team has been their openers. Sehwag and Gambhir have struggled to put up decent partnership and in the current scenario look completely out of touch. Gambhir especially has been struggling for form and his confidence seems to be really low at the moment. India probably should try and test out Manoj Tiwary in the middle order and possibly move Kohli to open with Sehwag for the game against England to see how he goes. I would have thought the think tank doing something like that for the warm up games but that was not to be. India have won their easy first game and have booked their spot in the Super 8’s and will have to seriously think about their options.

The bowling surely needs to improve and the batsmen need to find form. In the previous two editions India failed to win a single game in the second stage of the world T20 and on the current evidence it seems like this year might be no different.

Pacers the key for team India

When India tour Australia later this year pace will come to the forefront. In India though most of the times the pacers are just supporting acts to the spinners but when the team tours abroad the roles are reversed. This is the reason India is so heavily reliant on Zaheer Khan, who without a doubt has been India’s premier performer over the past few years.

Click here to read the full article

Karun to test for Lotus and Sreesanth replaces Praveen Kumar

Karun Chandhok will be testing for team Lotus, this Sunday at Valencia, Spain. Karun Chandhok who said that he was considering an opportunity as a third driver in a good team would want to grab this opportunity with both hands. Good performances here would for surely help him to return to the starting grid in 2012. Team Lotus Principal Tony Fernandes said that Karun was with the team as a guest in the pre-season testing in Valencia last week and now will have some time in the car.

On a telephonic conversation from Malaysia Tony Fernandes said

“We would like him to be reserve driver but we’ve got to see whether it all works out, that’s the plan,”

“He is going to get a couple of slots in the testing now in Jerez and Barcelona,” added the AirAsia airline boss. And then we’ll decide after that.”

“(Technical head) Mike (Gascoyne) and (team CEO) Riad (Asmat) and everyone else feel he’s the right guy to add value to the team.” He added.

Elsewhere in cricket India’s world cup preparation hit a road block when injured pacer Praveen Kumar was deemed unfit to take part in the event. Sreesanth has replaced Praveen Kumar in the world cup squad. Sreesanth would be really happy with this opportunity and would want to take advantage of the same with some good performances.

Speaking to the media a visibly elated Sreesanth said “It is a great opportunity and a great challenge to be a part of Indian team for the World Cup. I am lucky to be a part of it and am looking forward to giving my best in the tournament,”

“I am just looking forward to giving my best in the World Cup. I am absolutely fine with any role given to me. Whatever I would be asked to do I will perform accordingly.” He added.

So Sreesanth will join the pace attack along with Zaheer, Nehra and Munaf. Praveen’s absence for sure will be a big blow to Indian chances as he provides a steady option with the new ball. Praveen has been economical with the new ball for India and often provided the team with crucial breakthroughs. Sreesanth for sure will have to match that consistency when he does get a chance. So injury claims yet another victim for the Indians ahead of a major event. Let’s hope that it not a major loss and Sreesanth Justifies his position and delivers for team India.

A tour of missed opportunities for the men in blue

Yusuf pathan was the biggest positive to emerge out of the ODI series for the Indians

The Indian team is back after a grueling two month tour to South Africa, where the team drew the test series and lost the close ODI series. The team will be a bit disappointed with the result though. Even though the tour started with a humiliating innings defeat in the first test, India was in the best position to win their first test series in South Africa. The biggest gain of the series was India’s back to the wall comebacks throughout the tour. After the humiliating loss in the first test, the stunning comeback by the team in Durban was an amazing effort. The bowling which looked toothless in the first test performed brilliantly to level the series.

Even though the series was a hard fought one, the Indian team will be really disappointed with their efforts in the third test match. With the scores even after the first innings in the third test, India had the hosts 130/6 in the second innings. India was unable to dislodge the Boucher/Kallis pair to let them stretch the lead to over 300. I would probably say that this was our best chance of a series win in South Africa with all the greats still in the team. I am sure that Dhoni will consider this as a missed opportunity.

The series was once again a brilliant one for Sachin Tendulkar as he emerged as our best batsmen along with VVS Laxman who has now made rescuing his team under pressure a habit. The biggest positive to emerge out of the series was the response of the Indian bowling unit after the thrashing in the first test. The bowling of Sreesanth and Harbajan Singh were the stand out and obviously Zaheer was very consistent. Cheteshwar Pujara, even though did not score any runs looks like a player who belongs at this level and needs to be persisted with. The biggest disappointment of the series was Ishant Sharma; never in this series did he look like picking up any wickets.

The ODI series too was really close and in the absence of Sehwag, Ghambir and Sachin, it kind of gave us an insight on future of Indian cricket team. The insight though was not that pretty to be honest. The Indian batting struggled to counter the pace attack of the South Africans. The top order batting with the exception of Virat Kohli struggled.

The ODI series also followed familiar pattern to that of the test series, big loss in the first game and stunning comeback in the second. India went into the fourth ODI with a chance of winning their first ODI series in South Africa and once again the bowling and fielding let us down. With South Africa 117/5, JP Duminy did a Kallis on India this time. India was unable to separate Duminy/Botha pair who played brilliantly to rescue the home team to a match winning 265 from a precarious position. The Indian batting once again collapsed losing the game comfortably and thereby squandering a chance to win the series.

The one thing which was noticeable with the Indian ODI performance was that young Indian batsmen, baring Kohli did not have the necessary patience to hang in there. For example in the third ODI, Kohli and Raina had formed a decent partnership and Kohli had just hit a six earlier in the over. Raina, who was under no pressure to go for a big hit, charged the bowler and got stumped. There were various scenarios in the series where some patience was necessary in the middle and the Indian batsmen played some atrocious shots to hand their wickets. The biggest plus for India was the form of Yusuf Pathan who almost singlehandedly won the series for India with a brilliant hundred in the final game and also the bowling form of Harbajan Singh and Munaf Patel who performed brilliantly throughout the series. Yusuf’s performance has almost put paid to the all-rounder debate at least for the world cup.

Overall this wasn’t a bad tour for the Indians as they came unscathed in the test series with a 1-1 draw. The ODI series was disappointing though very close. The biggest worry for Dhoni was lack of form his batsman displayed. With just a month left for the World Cup we have 3 batsman who lack practice (Sachin, Ghambir and Sehwag), 3 who are out of form (Dhoni, Raina and Yuvraj) and one in crackling for but cannot get into the X1 (Kohli). So there are plenty of headaches for Dhoni and Kirsten when they sit down to pick the X1 for their first game against Bangladesh. Will they play Kohli and drop either Raina or Yuvraj? We have to wait and see.