Talent aplenty, but bowlers missing

Written by: S K Sham
Published: Friday, December 15, 2000, 0:00 [IST]
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As if ordained from above, the big-shots failed in the last One-dayer of the series, and left the stage for younger and newer players to enact their roles. For their own sake and for the good of Indian cricket, the opportunity was not allowed to go waste. The Rajkot match can be said to have belonged entirely to the lesser lights in the Indian team.

"Heartening," one might say. Well, it was much more. The marked bias of our selectors in reposing their trust in several young players, who had been anxiously waiting in the wings, has indeed paid off. That this healthy development should come along with the weeding out process of the shady elements from Indian cricket, must surely make the task of team-building for the future doubly rewarding.

Never in the past, were so many youngsters tried and tested for what they were worth. That most of them lived up to their credentials augurs well for the future, even as it will make final team selections so much tighter, if not difficult, on the choices of players.

Starting the season with the runaway success of Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Khan right from their very first matches, the bucket of talent indeed was over-flowing by the time India played the fifth and final One-dayer against Zimbabwe.

The discoveries included the likes of Shiv Sunder Das, a batsman so well-blessed in technique, to immediately and satisfactorily fill the slot of one of the openers, middle-order batsman Hemang Badani and off-spinner Sharandeep Singh.

One must remember that with the passage into the Indian squad being so over-crowded, the pressure on these young players, particularly the first-timers, to attain success instantly was so much greater. That even the find of the season, Yuvraj Singh, had to suffer the ignominy of being dropped, underscores the fact that competition among young players will continue to be fierce.

So much so that, the likes of Reetinder Sodhi and Sridharan Sriram will be border-line players until they are able to entrench themselves. In this regard, one was glad to see Sodhi finally assert himself.

Buried under these happy tidings, however, is one great worrying factor, which is bound to get magnified when India does battle against stronger teams like Australia and South Africa. The reference is to India's rather weak bowling attack.

This, despite the fact that new-comers Zaheer Khan and Sharandeep Singh have been able to fill the bill so far, to sharpen the attack, but ever so slightly.

The lack of incisiveness in the Indian attack was the main cause of even weak sides like Bangladesh, having their first taste of Test cricket, and Zimbabwe, taking totals in excess of 400 and 500, off the Indian bowling. This situation is compounded further by the lack of fitness of our kingpins in the attack, Javagal Srinath and Anil Kumble.

Kumble, who has had almost 10 years of continuous cricket, bearing the brunt of the Indian attack, is nursing a badly damaged right shoulder. The long lay-off may help him to recover. But whether he will be fully fit, no one can say for sure.

Srinath was first rendered hors de combat with a rotator cuff tear in his right shoulder. A surgery, useful therapy and restraint on the use of his throwing arm, allowed him to make a comeback. His present problem, however, appears to be his left ankle. To preserve his fitness, or rather in order not to aggravate his injury, he has been picking and choosing the matches to play.

Sunil Joshi started well, but has ended up as a total washout, as if having completely forgotten the nuances of left-arm spin bowling. Hence the emphasis on the inclusion of Sriram, with an eye also on the side's batting. Actually, there are many part-timers in this Indian squad, but who is going to form a quality attack, capable of winning matches?

If we have to keep on going back to the likes of Ashish Kapoor and Virendra Sehwag, then it means there is a vacuum of bowling talent in the country. Worse is that there is no genuine leg-spinner anywhere in sight.

Solid as the batting is, it is hard to visualise our winning Test matches with the kind of attack that we can muster. Limited-over battles are a different proposition altogether, where part-time bowlers, as in the past, can continue to do the trick.

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