Time to look ahead

It is obvious that the bowling department needs to be bolstered, but in order to have a potent attack, it requires planning and also some tweaking in the playing conditions in domestic cricket. This is with respect to fast bowling, and with Zaheer Khan sustaining injuries frequently, the others are not finding it easy to step up and deliver as strike bowlers.

Team India will return empty-handed from England, and though it can be disappointing, it is time now to look ahead and plan the revival process. Though India performed below par, one has to concede that the tour was bizarre in many ways. At the end of it all, Team India will be glad to return as they were subjected to a lot of hardships right through the summer. It has to be said that Dhoni has done exceptionally well in maintaining his composure despite the drubbing and all the criticism directed at him and his boys. Not only has he kept his cool but he has also fought hard on the field at various times with admirable professional and personal pride. I am sure that Dhoni, being the positive leader that he is, will look at things that need to be done based on the lessons learnt in England.

It is obvious that the bowling department needs to be bolstered but in order to have a potent attack, it requires planning and also some tweaking in the playing conditions in domestic cricket. This is with respect to fast bowling, and with Zaheer Khan sustaining injuries frequently, the others are not finding it easy to step up and deliver as strike bowlers. Ishant Sharma is gradually getting back to where he was but the fitness aspect is something that needs stringent auditing. Praveen Kumar looked good right through the tour but unfortunately he will not get conditions that help swing and seam everywhere and as such, he might not be as effective when the ball does not wobble around.

At the moment there are only limited options but it will not be a bad idea to get a group of young fast bowlers travelling with the Indian team to facilitate their improvement. The young crop of bowlers like Varun Aaron, Abhimanyu Mithun, Jaydev Unadkat and Umesh Yadav should be made to travel with Team India which will give them an opportunity to be under the guidance of Eric Simmons, the bowling coach. By bowling to accomplished veterans such as Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman on a regular basis, they will get a fair idea of what it takes to do well in international cricket.

In addition to their gaining experience and learning invaluable lessons, the bowlers picked in the squad can keep themselves fresh as a result of reduced work load in the nets. The reason I say this is because the bowlers can get tired as a result of having to bowl a fair bit to keep the batsmen in good nick. I remember Anil Kumble bowling from start to finish in the nets on a daily basis.

Of course, these days the theory that a bowler should not bowl more than 180 balls in a week has become a norm but it is difficult to keep track of all these numbers when involved in a series. Instead, the extra set of bowlers can do the bulk of the work and the ones that are likely to play can work on their fitness a shade more and bowl enough to be in rhythm.

One other aspect that was too obvious during the Test series was the reluctance of the Indian pacers to bowl the short stuff. This, I think, has a lot to do with the sluggish tracks that one gets in India and this is where the playing conditions need to be tweaked a bit. The restriction of the number of bouncers per over also needs to be revised if the laws of the game permit it. No sooner one or two bouncers are bowled than the batsmen happily plonk their front foot down the track.

On the other hand, the younger lot of batsmen showed visible signs of discomfort playing the short stuff. This is also due to the fact that they don't get pinged enough in domestic cricket. For the overall improvement of players it does become imperative for the technical committee of the BCCI to see if it can modify the bouncer rule in domestic cricket.

It has to be borne in mind that better outfields in recent times have encouraged the players to dive and slide which was not the case in the 1980s and 90s. Similarly, if the youngsters get to play more of the short stuff in domestic cricket it will help them enormously.

There is no dearth of talent in the country, but it has to be allowed to blossom by way of making them go through the paces in their formative years. The older generation of players were in a way blessed in the sense that they played on matting wickets in most parts of the country which helped them counter the short stuff. I am not suggesting that we go back to the old days, but in the absence of bouncy tracks and with the restriction on bouncers in place, the youngsters are short-changed in a way. Hopefully, something constructive will be worked out in the wake of what transpired in England.