The agonising moments on the fifth and final day of the Mohali Test must still be haunting India's bowling department. In that first of the three-Test Series against New Zealand, the home team bowlers were given with four sessions and one hour and 373 runs to get inspired.
Yet they just could not achieve the target of taking 10 New Zealand wickets for a triumph. The visiting team finished the Test at 251 for seven in 135 overs to force a draw. Now the teams are in Kanpur to play the second Test starting on Friday (Oct 22).
Javagal Srinath, Venkatesh Prasad and Anil Kumble are rated as a terrific trio of international standard. The contribution of these three to Indian cricket this decade has been handsome. Blessed with enormous talent, each of them is capable of winning a match on his own.
Collectively too they had won many a match for the country in both versions of the game. Hence a lot is expected of them. The calibre of these three bowlers has always inspired the fourth and fifth bowlers in the combination.
The fourth and fifth bowlers used to be two spinners on most occasions. On a chosen few matches the fourth bowler turned out to be medium-pacer like Agarkar or Mohanty. In the first Test at Mohali, left-arm spinner Sunil Joshi and Vijay Bharadwaj were the fourth and fifth bowlers.
Vijay Bharadwaj, who made his Test debut in Mohali, is basically a middle-order batsman. Bharadwaj's intelligent off-break bowling has often served as a timely tonic to his state side (Karnataka). But should he be exposed in the Test arena as the fifth bowler? A constructive sense of assessment would only discourage such an experiment. A full-fledged fifth bowler is the need of the hour.
For, only then the hectic pressure on the bowling department could be eased to a great extent. Though they could be categorised as world class bowlers, Srinath, Prasad and Kumble richly deserve the support of quality bowlers who could fit in as the fourth and fifth bowlers. Then the variety would be ensured and the captain could function with greater imagination.