Going by their first day in the field in England, India have a lot of work to do before the first Test if they hope to defend their No 1 ranking. India's performance on the opening day of the three-day game against Somerset was in no way worthy of the world's best team.
The pace bowlers were put to test by the local batsmen, led by England skipper Andrew Strauss. And the Indians did not exactly cover themselves in glory. The wicket was flat, tailor-made for their skipper to regain his confidence, but there was enough help from the conditions, an overcast sky and cool breeze, for the pacers to be effective. But, Munaf Patel, Sreesanth and Zaheer Khan all failed to make an impression.
Munaf, who came under criticism from West Indies pace great Andy Roberts for his lack of pace, chose to bowl within himself. There was no bite in his deliveries and the Baroda pacer never looked like beating the bat. Sreesanth was undisciplined, bowling all over the place. In his first spell, Sreesanth lacked direction. After the long rain break, he got his line right but couldn’t find the length. Strauss hit him for three boundaries in an over as he moved to his half-century.
Zak’s fitness a worry
There was some anxiety over spearhead Zaheer Khan's fitness. After his first spell, Zaheer wore a belt as protection for his back and pulled over a sweater. The left-arm seamer too bowled within himself and was trying to concentrate on finding his rhythm after the long lay off. From the day's performance it was clear, though, that he has a lot of work to do before the 21st if he has to regain his sharpness.
Most glaring was the finish, where the smooth release, the follow through and weight behind the ball that he has mastery over, was not happening for him. The batsmen didn't have any problem taking him on, driving on the front foot. It looks like the bowlers sitting out of the game, Ishant Sharma and Praveen Kumar, will be sharing most of the workload with Zaheer during the Test series. The two are in fine rhythm and brimming with confidence.
Praveen Kumar should relish the conditions. He must be smacking his lips in anticipation. If he could swing the ball in hot and humid Carribean, he could be unplayable here. Ishant was the biggest gain for India in the West Indies and is bowling at his best.
India wouldn't be too happy with their display in the field too. Strauss was dropped by Wriddhiman Saha when on 64, the bowler to suffer being Amit Mishra. Then at the total of 160, Tendulkar grassed a sitter off Nick Compton when the batsman tried to pull Sreesanth.
India suffered an injury scare when leggie Amit Mishra walked off the field with a hand injury, suffered while trying to stop Somerset batsman Arul Suppiah's straight hit.