Specialisation at every turn!

If India had wanted a bowling coach, they could well have chosen Javagal Srinath. He has experience of Australian conditions as well as first hand knowledge of the way the current Indian pacemen bowl. — Pic. S. PATRONOBISH-

CRICKET is becoming increasingly specialised these days, but are we carrying it too far? Are we making this passing on of knowledge and skill much too complicated?

CRICKET is becoming increasingly specialised these days, but are we carrying it too far? Are we making this passing on of knowledge and skill much too complicated?

After all, when India won its last Test series outside the sub-continent, in England in 1986, the team did not have a coach, leave alone a physio or a fitness trainer. And we couldn't even think of a bowling coach.

It must be said though that in 1985 and '86, India probably played its best cricket outside the sub-continent in a long time. The side also managed to silence a lot of critics.

India dominated the three-Test series against Australia down under in 1985-86, and, but for inclement weather, would surely have become the first Indian side to register a Test series victory in Australia.

In the English summer of 1986, India outplayed the home team 2-0 in a three-Test series. The Indian dominance in that series was comprehensive and it made me proud that I was a part of that team.

Kapil Dev captained India then and I must say that he led from the front. We did adapt to the conditions well, the batsmen applied themselves, and the bowlers landed the ball in the right areas.

It surprises and saddens me that subsequently India has failed to register a single series win outside the sub-continent. And we now have teams that have apart from the coach, a physio, a fitness trainer, on occasions a psychologist, and now a bowling coach.

It is a pretty long list of support staff, and I do wonder whether all of them are necessary. Even if they are, do they all have to be foreigners?

However, on a short-term basis, it might not be such a bad idea to have former Australian left-arm paceman Bruce Reid to guide our pacemen, since three of the five of this breed in the squad happen to be left-armers.

Having faced him in the pitches of Australia and at home, I remember Reid well. He was on the fast medium side, moved the ball, and, because of his height, could achieve steep lift. However, the most notable quality in him was accuracy.

It was seen during the home matches this season, both in the Tests and in the ODIs, that the Indian pacemen were passing through a crisis of confidence. The absence of Javagal Srinath, who subsequently retired from all forms of cricket, was felt.

Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra have the basic ingredients in them, but what they need is somebody to guide them at a critical juncture so that they can rediscover their confidence.

The pitches in Australia may have bounce and carry. However, the Indian pacemen will be bowling at some of the most explosive and feared batsmen in world cricket. Here, Reid's local knowledge may come in handy.

Kapil Dev and Manoj Prabhakar were superb during the 1991-92 tour of Australia. They knew the tricks of the fast bowling trade and pitched the ball up. -- Pic. V. V. KRISHNAN-

Having said this, I find it difficult to reason why an Indian cannot do the job. The Board could have considered the candidature of Srinath himself, as he has bowled a fair bit in Australia. After all, he has been with the team for a long time, knows the mind and heart of the young pacemen, and has enough experience at the highest level to provide them help.

Let's not forget that giant among pacemen in India, Kapil Dev. In emergency situations, the Board can definitely approach Kapil for guidance, especially when it comes to coaching young pacemen. I am sure Kapil will not turn the offer down. There are also others like Roger Binny, who was a genuine swing bowler in his time.

If we can have a pace bowling coach in Australia, then why not have a spin bowling coach when India plays in the sub-continent? With Anil Kumble in the latter stages of his career and Harbhajan Singh having his ups and downs, India can definitely do with one of our past greats in a guiding role. Will the Board once again opt for a foreigner when it has Bedi, Prasanna, Chandrasekhar and Venkataraghavan to choose from? If it does, then that will cause a furore in the country.

The need of the hour in the Indian team, and I have said this before, is a bowling all-rounder. This is the cricketer that we have sorely missed. This is also the principal reason why the balance of the side gets affected and why we are forced to make compromises.

Having been the coach of the India `A' side when Ajit Agarkar was showing plenty of promise, I thought he could answer a lot of our problems. But this Mumbai cricketer has been inconsistent in his career, and despite a Test century at Lord's, has not really lived up to his potential. I would once again like to add that the Board has to groom a cricketer or two from the under-19 level.

Coming to the immediate future, there will be enormous pressure on the Indian pacemen to deliver in Australia. Here, I hope they take a leaf out of the performances of the Indian pacemen during the 1991-92 tour down under.

I thought Kapil and Manoj Prabhakar bowled quite splendidly in that series, pitching the ball up and swinging it around, and not being carried away by the extra bounce. Zaheer, Nehra and the others will have to do much the same.

I must also add that the bowlers must receive adequate support from the fielders. There is little point in the pacemen finding the edges with the fielders being unable to latch on to the catches. Against the world champion, the Indians will have to hold everything that comes their way.