In the end, they all lay wounded. The section of the Indian dressing room where the fast bowlers rest looked like a casualty ward. The team had been vanquished and it took the biggest toll on the pace attack.
Ishant Sharma, S Sreesanth and Praveen Kumar didn't end up as heroes but they couldn't be faulted for lack of effort. The trio braved serious pain to remain in the fight till they were knocked out.Every pounding Sreesanth's foot took sent a shooting pain through his toe. Ishant was begging for a new ankle when a member of the team management went to check on him in his room at Edgbaston. "Sab theek hai, bus ek ankle de do (everything is fine, just give me an ankle), he is learnt to have said. Kumar had to sit out of the last Test due to an ankle injury.
But the fact remains that the lack of depth in India’s bowling was glaring. They were no match when pitted against the pace army of the world's new powerhouse, England.
The team fared dismally in batting too but it can be argued it was a result of not playing to potential. The proven record of Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman is proof that it is not beyond them to rectify the situation.
However, the same cannot be said of the bowling. That RP Singh had to be summoned despite not being in touch highlights the situation. As the Indian sits to analyse the debacle and tries to figure a way to return to the top, lack of options in bowling is the major concern.
The workload has been massive with Sharma bowling 173.3 overs for 11 wickets, Kumar 158.3 overs for 15 wickets and Sreesanth 111 overs. Indian bowling heavily depends on one man, Zaheer Khan. The fact is his body is unable to cope with the rigours of international cricket. He has broken down too many times for the team's comfort.
The ineffectiveness of the spinners hurt too. Graeme Swann also found the going tough but made his presence felt by winning the last Test on his own. Harbhajan Singh averaged 143.50 in the first two Tests, Amit Mishra averaged 106.66.
Skipper MS Dhoni and bowling coach Eric Simons admitted the urgent need to groom bowlers. “It's important not to lose bowlers, especially when you are not in the subcontinent, because manoeuvring three specialist bowlers becomes very difficult, and using part-timers, who are usually spinners,” said Dhoni.
“It will be very important to groom a few bowlers or [to] have the bench strength. If we keep playing with the same bowlers and don't give exposure to some of the youngsters, we may be forced at some point to straightaway bring them in to play Test cricket, which can be tough on them. So you need to plan a bit, and hopefully utilise the time in between in the best possible manner,” said Dhoni.
Simons echoed the thoughts: “This has been our first series where we have struggled collectively in batting and bowling. So you just need to be monitoring those who are on the fringes and making sure they come to the right place.”