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Batting for bowlers

Indian cricket remains eclipsed by its famed batting order. The lopsided approach is now taking its toll.

india Updated: Jul 26, 2011 22:18 IST

Deliberations had started even before the match was over. And once it was over, the diagnosis from many of the pundits was this: India’s much feted, much talented cricketers were a ragged bunch, tired and not physically fit to take on England at Lord’s. While that may be the case — chief bowling attack Zaheer Khan was injured on the first day, Sachin Tendulkar was ‘recovering’ from illness, Gautam Gambhir was also injured — the real issue was something else that most folks are still in denial about. India, for all it’s No. 1 Test team status, is not a top-notch bowling side. If it has seemed otherwise, the fact is that winning the World Cup, grabbing one of the finest periods of cricketing success under the captaincy of MS Dhoni has come despite our bowlers, rather than because of them.

Sure, there have been great stretches where our bowlers have strutted their stuff. This includes the great spell from Ishant Sharma on the fourth day of the Lord’s Test. But when you have one of your prime weapons notch up one wicket over two innings for a total of 218 runs and your wicketkeeper has to have a twirl with the ball because you’ve run out of bowling options, you’re running on reputation and empty gas. Both Ishant Sharma and Praveen Kumar (who picked up five wickets in the first innings) seriously run the risk of being treated like work mules rather than precious arsenal.

The problem of India’s lack of bowling prowess may lie in the way Indians — selectors, pundits and spectators — look at the modern game. It would be easy to blame the thwak-centric nature of the popular T20 format for the ‘batting is everything’ outlook. But when was the last time you had mohalla kids pretending to be Zaheer Khan or the old greats from wherever? The greatness of a cricket team is measured by its consistency of winning. If Indian sports has been eclipsed by cricket, then Indian cricket has been eclipsed by its great batting machine — which, as seen on the last day of play at Lord’s, is not invulnerable. To win the next Test match and retain its No. 1 spot, India must get fitter and have a bowling attack. Not just bowlers hoping that opposing batsmen will make mistakes and supporting batsmen win matches.