London, Aug 15: Even as the India-bashing gathers momentum during the team's shockingly poor Test series against England, Indian pace bowler Praveen Kumar has emerged as star on the horizon. While his 15 wickets in the tour so far at an average of just under 30, may not go down as a glistening achievement, Praveen has at least left a mark by being the third highest wicket-taker in the engagement so far.
And with little succour from fellow paceman Ishant Sharma and Sreesanth, who have both failed miserably at impeding the English juggernaut, Praveen's accomplishment stands out all the more. After all, he bowled 158 overs, more than any other bowler of the tour, and with the ball in his hand there was always hope that a breakthrough was imminent.
Praveen made his bones on the dusty, slow grounds of India where in the Ranji Trophy, he has taken nearly 200 wickets from 44 fixtures at an average of just over 23. He then went on to make quite an impact in ODIs played on Indian soil, but it was not before India's 2011 tour of the Caribbean that he was considered potent Test stuff.
It was a baptism by fire for him, as he was playing his maiden Test in an unfamiliar milieu. But he was upto the task, picking 12 scalps from three Tests. He showed the same verve and prowess in England over the last few weeks, albeit earning a lesser reward this time.
And while he demonstrates that he is a prodigious swinger of the ball, his innocuous medium pace has been a dampener. Quite simply, Praveen's deliveries are not quick enough to complement his swing and the batsman are consequently accorded ample time to adjust themselves to playing the appropriate stroke.
However, former Australian new-ball speedster Jason Gillespie has been enamoured by the young upstart and sees a treasure trove of wickets in him. Gillespie said no one in international cricket presently, can swing the ball as much as Praveen, but that the bowler will have to add about 10 km/hr of speed to effect the venom that shakes up the batsmen.
Will Praveen heed this well-wishers' words and start to work on his pace as well? The fourth Test against te English may show if he is trying to do so.