Just when it had increasingly begun to appear that Munaf Patel was slowly sliding out of contention for the national squad, Sreesanth’s knee injury has given him a new lease of life. The selectors on Monday named the almost-forgotten pacer as Sreesanth’s replacement for the Test series.
While there is the immediate hope that his return will bolster a struggling pace attack, serious questions remain. He played his last Test almost one-and-half years ago in New Zealand. Since then, all he has done in the longer format is play four Ranji matches and one Duleep Trophy match last season. More importantly, he has been far from his best in these outings, picking 16 wickets in Ranji Trophy and just one in the Duleep Trophy.
That said, the selectors don’t have much to choose from. The likes of the once-promising Irfan Pathan and RP Singh are struggling to reach their best, and new recruits haven’t proven themselves at the top level. The lack of fast bowling options is a serious problem, and while this is camouflaged to some extent in the shorter version of the game with Praveen Kumar and Ashish Nehra shoring up the attack, it could be cruelly exposed in Tests.
Besides the lack of an obvious reason to go back to Munaf, what’s crucial is whether the Baroda pacer is ready to shoulder the responsibility that has been thrust on him. Munaf hasn’t been in action after the Indian Premier League (IPL), where he played just four matches. With that being the case, who can say what form or shape he’s in? For Munaf, the opportunity is a huge unexpected bonus, and he should take to it with the opportunity with the desperation of a drowning man being thrown a rope. If he stays afloat, it can only be good news for India’s pace department and the bowler himself.