Australia were in India at around the same time last year for a Test series. India had run away handsome winners back then, thanks largely to the pace duo of Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma. A year later, India’s fast bowling stocks aren’t as high. Zaheer is out injured and Ishant is looking just a shadow of the sinewy troublemaker he once was.
With the Australian batsmen showing solid form in their Champions Trophy triumph earlier this month, the Indian speedsters need to be at their best to help their team’s cause. If the first practice session in the venue for the first match here on Friday was an indication, there was room for concern.
Of the five picked for the first two games, Ashish Nehra didn’t bowl at the nets. Given that the Indian team follows a state-of-the-art communication system when it comes to dealing with the media, it wasn’t known whether everything was alright with the left-armer, India’s best of late. That he took part in the warm-up drills earlier and later came to the nets for some stretching, strength training and knocking, hinted he might be okay.
Now about the rest. Ishant’s first ball kicked up wickedly from a not-so-short length and hit Virender Sehwag on the chest leaving the batsman in visible pain. A few good ones followed although he was a little inconsistent afterwards and looked out of rhythm at times, as was evident from the couple of times he stopped midway while charging in. The rough at the top of his run-up in the practice area might have been a reason.
Partnering him in the main net, Praveen Kumar was disappointing. Even his length wasn’t as consistent as he would have liked. The Uttar Pradesh tough man did get a long run but there was no noticeable improvement.
Replacing them were Munaf Patel and Sudeep Tyagi. Bowling from close to the stumps like he usually does, Munaf was the best one on show. Hitting the deck hard and getting the ball to deviate, he had the batsmen in trouble on a number of occasions.
Coming off a good outing in the Irani Cup tie against Mumbai, Munaf is still not at his peak. There are signs that he might get there though, if he keeps it straight and simple.
Tyagi was bowling well within himself, presumably because he didn’t want to look silly by trying to be adventurous in his maiden India call-up. Bowling with a run-up shorter than usual, he cut down on pace and concentrated on the basics of limited-overs cricket. His natural inward angle still beat the left-handers a few times. Overall, it looked as if there was a lot of room for improvement for most of the fast bowlers with time running short.