Day 2, The Oval: India needs to build its bowling future around Ishant

Posted: August 20, 2011 by The CouchExpert in Cricket, India in England 2011
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 Goutham Chakravarthi

 20 August 2011

This has been the most painful series to sit through as an Indian fan in years. Indian fans have had their share of bad times over the years, but none so prolonged and hopeless in the last ten years. It was heart-breaking when India were ousted of the 2007 world cup. There were tongues lashing after the earlier-than-expected ousters from the 2009 and 2010 T20 world cups as well, but never so in Test cricket.

Ishant's progress will determine India's immediate future

The Indian fan has come to expect excellence from its cricket teams. It has been a decade and more of a series of highs and a very few lows since India toppled Australians back in 2001 in Tests. Not that Indian teams never had troubles with player form and fitness issues through these years. Even the mighty Tendulkar was booed at his home ground in 2006 when injury and form seemed destined to end his career. Rahul Dravid has had a lean patch ever since captaincy weighed too much on him and his struggles to cope with a highly intrusive coach and micro-managing chairman of selectors, only to be seemingly recovering recently. Virender Sehwag has spent a couple of years in the wilderness and India’s great new ball hope, Irfan Pathan is now more a batsman than a bowler.

Amid all the troubles,India found answers. If Rahul Dravid was the lynch-pin as the lead batsman of India’s years under Ganguly and Wright, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman found some their best years under the M.S. Dhoni – Gary Kirsten combination. Anil Kumble found greatness under the former regime and became the flag bearer of Indian bowling and when the time came, Zaheer took on the mantle and the transition was seamless.

It was never a great side that dominated world cricket, but it became India’s finest. It was built as much on talent as it was on its goal to being a side that would compete on equal terms everywhere in the world. Victories in Headingly, Adelaide, Trent Bridge, Perth and Durban showed the depth of character and the desire they had to succeed. They came as a relief to a generation of Indians who were used to watching their teams turn-up in alien conditions and be handed a hammering.

The last month is a ghastly return to those dark days for the Indian fan. It is a return to the days when you would dread to switch-on the TV when you woke-up in the morning to check India’s progress in Australia and New Zealand. It was a given that we would never win overseas. It, now, looks a bit like that in England.

Sreesanth produced a good spell straight after tea. He beat the bats of Pietersen and Bell, who were both past their hundreds, in an aggressive 7-over spell. Unfortunately, it was mediocrity from Sreesanth on either side of the spell. R.P. Singh has been subject to great laughs and jokes and it is not his fault that he got picked. However, it is appalling that he is not in any physical shape to last a session of hard bowling. Amit Mishra has issues on hard flat surfaces and it is something he needs addressing if he doesn’t want to be forgotten as a Test bowler. Anil Kumble was a great support for his mates even when there was nothing on offer. He was tight and rarely leaked runs to release the pressure that was built by the quicks at the other end.

Ishant was the lone warrior. He has had his moments in the series. He was extraordinarily brilliant when he almost bowled Indian back into contention out of nowhere at Lord’s. He has lacked a bit of guidance when things have not gone well. He should have had a lot more wickets than he has to show for his efforts this series. His rhythm and lines were good and with better support, could have hurt England. This experience, one hopes, will help him to develop in to a bowler knowing how to handle himself in all conditions and all match situations. This series cannot have been great to be an Indian bowler, but he has shown great fight in all the Tests.

As India will look back and try to pick the pieces at the end of this series, the captain, coach and selectors will want to see how best to put a team together that can compete in Australia and try and build an attach with long term interests. It might mean investing on a set of bowlers with long term potential and Ishant will be at the center of it. He has often shown that he has the ability to deliver at this level. His skills and fitness need better monitoring and guidance so that he doesn’t fall by the wayside like most Indian fast bowlers do.

India needs to look ahead for the sake of its long term interests. Poor vision and preparation perhaps needs first looking into.


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