A much-maligned bowler

Published : Sep 22, 2001 00:00 IST

THERE can be no substitute for experience and it was evident in the manner in which Venkatesh Prasad returned to the Test side. The beginning may have been modest but he did make an impact in the Test that India won at Kandy. I had always believed that Prasad still had plenty of cricket left in him and I am happy he has managed to stage a successful comeback.

It is easy for us to say experience is very useful but then it takes years of hard work to attain that status. One can gain experience only from playing regularly and that is why I regard players with experience very highly. If a player has an experience of more than five years of international cricket then I must say that he deserves to be treated specially.

The fact that Prasad has made many comebacks speaks of the man's determination. There has never been any doubt regarding his skills. He proved it in his first season of international cricket with classy bowling on the England tour in 1996. From then on, he has been under scrutiny and was made the scapegoat whenever India's bowling failed. It was not that Prasad alone would have bowled badly, but somehow he alone incurred the wrath of the selectors, who, I must say, have not been kind to this Karnataka speedster.

Prasad has always bowled his best when in the company of Javagal Srinath. Fast bowlers hunt in pairs, we all know, but how often have we made efforts to ensure that two good fast bowlers got a long run? The selectors have always punished Prasad whenever he has made minor mistakes and have adopted a different yardstick when dealing with other medium-pacers.

I don't think age should be the criteria for deciding the utility of a player. What is wrong if Prasad, past 30, continues to bowl better than some of his younger colleagues? It is said that he does not contribute with the bat, but tell me is it his job to get runs? Is it not enough that Prasad bowls a tidy spell? Is it not a valuable contribution if he picks up three or four wickets? No, it is not fair to expect a bowler to do a batsman's job too. If he is a bad fielder, effort should be made to improve this aspect but not at the cost of a place in the side.

Look at Srinath. He has gone on record so many times, pointing out the absence of Prasad as a blow. In Prasad's company, I have noticed that Srinath becomes a different bowler. He becomes charged up and one has seen a healthy competition, a healthy rivalry between them whenever they have bowled together. This has helped the team a lot.

We have such experienced bowlers and yet we have been struggling to make an impact. Why can't Prasad and Srinath be used sparingly to enable them to share their wisdom with the younger lot? There has been some talk of a rotation policy and it is time we realised there is some merit in having a horses for courses policy. If a particular bowler is not suited for certain conditions, it makes sense to leave him out and include him when the conditions favour him.

By picking the side so early for the tour to South Africa, the selectors have given the players enough time to prepare themselves for the hard grind.

It will be a tough tour no doubt but there is no need to panic. India has a strong side, the strongest in years, and it is in the right shape of mind, despite the loss in Sri Lanka, to change the image of being losers overseas.

The return of Anil Kumble will complete the attack and the Indian bowling will gain respect in the eyes of the South African batsmen. The pitches will suit the South African bowlers and I am sure they will suit the Indian bowlers too. So the onus will be on the batsmen and this is what I want to emphasise. It is the Indian batting which will hold the key to success on the tour to South Africa.

The trio of Kumble, Prasad and Srinath looks lethal on paper and I know they are all keen to have a go. After a long time, they will be bowling together and that is what makes it more exciting. The progress made by Harbhajan Singh in the last one year has been rapid and it is a complete attack in my opinion.

Kumble's presence will ensure that the South Africans are on their toes and my information is that Harbhajan is working very hard in Jalandhar. The off-spinner may not have made a big impact in Sri Lanka, but he is keen to get back into the business of taking wickets.

It is true that the brand of ball used in the series in Sri Lanka hampered Harbhajan's style, but then that can't be an excuse for not being able to take wickets. Harbhajan is practising with the Kookaburra brand of balls at home and it will help if he gets used to the seam of the ball as quickly as possible.

It is not possible for Harbhajan to bowl always with the SG brand of ball that is used in India and the sooner he overcomes this problem the better it will be for the team.

I would like to congratulate the selectors for picking the best available combination for the one-day series in South Africa. There have been a few exclusions, but then most of them have been on the basis of current form. It is not possible to satisfy everyone and that is why there is this debate over the choice of Deep Dasgupta as the wicketkeeper. He is young and from what I have gathered a very sincere lad. So let us back him and expect him to come good in the testing conditions in South Africa.

The experienced players in the team have a task on hand - to guide the young blood. It is this healthy interaction which is vital for the success of the side. Sourav Ganguly is now in charge of a strong side and shall have little complaints on this front. It is time for the team to deliver and the beginning can be made in South Africa.

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