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Gen-Next of Indian pace attack

india Updated: Jul 15, 2006 16:04 IST
Highlight Story

Munaf Patel

Lean, tall and mean, this temperamental young man from the small town of Ikhar in Gujarat is considered by many as the most promising fast bowler India has discovered in recent times.

He has shown maturity beyond years in straightaway getting down to business and firing in an accurate off side line that takes most years to master.

He is reasonably quick, reverse swings the ball and has so far shown that he can keep his temper in check (something he is not known for in the domestic circuit) at this level of competition.

In a span of less than a year and a few Tests, Munaf is on his way to becoming India’s spearhead. If he fulfils the potential he possesses, India may well have unearthed a real match-winner.

Whether he has the ability and the physical strength to sustain himself for long in the fierce competitive international arena is to be seen. Also, overexposure to one-day cricket could result in burnout and loss of confidence in his ability.

Irfan Pathan

Before the mysterious loss of confidence in the West Indies, he was the best advertisement of the youthful, talented face of Indian cricket.

He made his presence felt on that historic tour of Australia in 2004 and despite a sudden dip in pace, kept on bowling his in-dippers with great subtlety to fox the best batsmen in the trade.

Master of variations in pace, Pathan’s inexplicable absence in the squad needs greater probing and the fan needs to know the right reasons for his loss of “confidence.”

From an all-rounder of unlimited potential to sitting on the sidelines within a short span of time is something nobody had bargained for. Without getting into semantics of whether he was dropped or rested, his not being in the team is hurting India on two counts – in bowling as well as in batting. 

Sreesanth 

Lithe, supple and brimming with youthful energy, Sreesanth is another of the young pacemen who have faith in God and in their own ability.

His enthusiasm and eagerness to do well can be judged from the intense concentration he brings to his face when set to take off in his runway. He does not mind getting thrashed by the batsmen and is ready to retaliate with a bagful of tricks.

He is nippy, can swing the ball both ways, and has the ability to change his pace and when in rhythm can produce a handful of wickets.

Like Munaf, Sreesanth has the potential to touch the skies, provided he takes care of his body, which does not seem too happy to handle the kind of workload that the excessive modern day cricket demands.

Also, needs to control his temper as it can hamper his growth as a bowler.

RP Singh

His being in and then suddenly out typifies the way Indian team selection is being done these days. Today you could be called the best in the business and all of a sudden you could find yourself watching the action as a bystander.

This gangling, lithe leftarmer from Uttar Pradesh had become a surprise weapon in the Indian arsenal while they were in Pakistan.

The sudden lift he could manage from the track and a tidy pace generated from a slinging action had made the great West Indian fast bowler Michael Holding predict great things for him.

So impressed was Holding on that tour that he said, “He has all it takes to become a fine fast bowler at international level.”

Yet once that tour was over, RP Singh never played Tests for India again and is now playing for India A. No one has been able to explain why the man, touted by all as a fine prospect, has been consigned so summarily to the dustbin.

Zaheer Khan

This tall, well-built man had everything going for him — apart from his Bollywood looks. He was quick, could move the ball both ways and his yorkers reminded everyone of Kapil at his best.

When he crashed the ball into the base of the stumps early on in his international career and made the batsmen hop with his bounce, India seemed to have laid their hand on a genuinely quick bowler of international class. Somewhere along the way, the man lost his way.

Physical breakdowns combined with a few very ordinary performances, and with the arrival of coach Greg Chappell, he soon found himself out of the team. When he returned he seemed to have overtrained himself in the gym with weights and had lost a lot of his sharpness.

Ajit Agarkar

An enigma if ever there was one. He has been long enough in the team and got many opportunities to cement his place. This pencil-thin fast bowler from Mumbai, despite his fragile frame, can be the quickest of Indian pacemen and has many a time produced genuine hostile spells to lead India to victory.

Lack of fitness has been his bane but each time you write him off he has come back to produce match-winning performance.

He was the best of Indian bowlers on view in the one-dayers in the West Indies and it came as a shock and surprise to find him being dropped from the Test side.

No one knows why. One explanation could be that the team felt he could not take the strain of the five-day game and needed to be rested for future one-day encounters.

L Balaji

Another of those mystery men who have disappeared from the scene after making a sensational impact with their outstanding skill. Blessed with a supple body, he could move the ball into the bat with varying degrees of pace to surprise the batsman.

He later developed an outswinger as well and that made him a very dangerous bowler, as he did prove on that historic tour of Pakistan in 2005.

The world is waiting to find out whether he has recovered from injuries enough to play in domestic cricket and try to make a comeback to the team.

It is not often a team discovers a swing bowler of his ability, so losing him in this unfortunate manner is nothing short of a tragedy.

VRV Singh

The world has not seen enough of him to pass any kind of judgement.

He is strongly built and wants to bowl at a fast and furious pace. Maybe on the firmer and faster tracks of Australia, he will be a difficult bowler to handle.

But pace, and that too in and around 140 kmph, is not always the best weapon to unsettle an international batsman, unless it is complemented by other skills.

Doesn’t seem to have much variety in his bowling by way of seam or swing or even subtle variations of pace, and that could prove to be his undoing.

He is still quite raw and needs to hone his skills a bit more before one can say he “belongs to the big league”.

Ashish Nehra

If strength lay in fragility, Nehra would have been the king. A man of weak constitution, Nehra was still gifted enough to bowl quick and move the ball enough both ways to unnerve the best.

It is a marvel how this pacer, whose knees and ankle could not take the weight of his body, had the strength and the skill to emerge as one of the most exciting fast bowling prospects for India.

Unfortunately, he could not sustain his efforts and a series of breakdowns meant that he is now in the wilderness. He still feels he has the ability to make a comeback and if he does manage that, it will be a tribute to his commitment to play for India again.

Make no mistake, when at his best, India had rarely seen a better pace bowler.

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