From temperate Bangalore to humid Colombo, it was a tough overnight transition, but Stuart Binny didn’t show any signs of exasperation as he kept running in to bowl at the India batting nets in the P Sara Oval on Tuesday.
There was some late movement when he pitched it up, but the pace wasn’t much to trouble India’s top order batsmen.
That shouldn’t come as a surprise from a player who didn’t manage a wicket in his three Tests, all played in England last year.
Any seamer would prefer to bowl in England than on the dry Sri Lanka pitches, but Binny wasn’t the impact bowler, a 78 on debut which helped India draw the Trent Bridge Test was considered a good start. Can bat, can’t really bowl but the India team management has specifically asked for him to be sent over.
The Galle Test capitulation has triggered some upheaval, and Binny’s arrival is the result of that. From five batsmen and five bowlers, it has become four-anda-half bowlers for team director Ravi Shastri, maybe more reflecting the fact that Binny the bowler is not half the batsman he can be.
He padded up to bat once the specialists had finished their stints, batting in pairs at each of the three nets and taking turns to face pace, throw downs or spin. Everything indicated to Binny playing in the second Test starting on Thursday. The pitch had a tinge of green but subcontinent surfaces have the magical quality to turn light brown on match day.
Binny, 31, has always been a batsman who can bowl, but quality all-rounders are so difficult to find in India, unlike the other major teams who get them from time to time. R Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Harbhajan Singh have all made important contributions with the bat, but a search for the next Kapil Dev is pretty much like it was when India were scouring for the next Sunil Gavaskar. TALENT SHORTAGE The definition of the allrounder too has undergone a sea change, and even wicketkeepers can be added to that list.
So why can’t India, in this IPL age, not produce quality players who can be depended upon with the bat and ball?
“See, we need bowling all-rounders. Not the other way around. But our players have to work on their game,” said former India coach, Madan Lal.
He hoped Bhuvneshwar and Ashwin saw themselves as all-rounders and worked on their batting. “Binny’s fitness and bowling — he can bowl the late swinging delivery — has improved, but he is only a batsman who can also bowl.”
At domestic level, players will have to work extra hard and need to be encouraged because an all-rounder will have a much better chance of national selection. “They must bat at No 5 of 6 for their state team, learn to bat for two-three hours and focus on winning matches. But not many are doing that hard work in domestic cricket,” Madan Lal added.
If the pitch aids seam bowling early on, India will also have the option to play a third pacer in Umesh Yadav, who is quick and skiddy.