The old Trafford Test between England and the West Indies showed one thing. If a team has a pace bowler, he can lift his side's morale considerably. Fidel Edwards played a Test after missing a few and when he began to make English batsmen hop, one could see that the West Indians were enjoying the sight.
Unfortunately for Edwards, he did not quite have support and so England were able to get enough runs and put pressure on the West Indies batting, which looks even more fragile after the retirement of Brian Lara.
Coming back to Old Trafford, Steve Harmison made the West Indian batsmen jump with his pace and bounce he gets so naturally from his height. Both Edwards and Harmison are never going to be deadly accurate always, but when they hit the target, they are more than a handful. Harmison had better support though, and not just from the other end but also from the fielders.
How much West Indies cricket has gone downhill could be seen from their schoolboyish fielding and catching. But that they took the match into the last day and eventually lost by a small margin will no doubt boost them in the final Test. If they win, it may well spark a revival of self-belief among the players.
It has not helped that Marlon Samuels, who replaced injured skipper Ramnaresh Sarawan, has written to the team management with a copy marked to the West Indies Board that he has not been getting quality bowling for practice.
What Samuels is saying is that the regular bowlers bowl to the top five or six batsmen and then rest, which means he has to bat against batsmen who hardly ever bowl in Tests, but are just rolling their arm over at nets. That's why it is important that a team travelling overseas enlists the help of local bowlers.
India are perfect hosts
Whenever a team tours India, you will find dozens of local bowlers bowling at the visiting side's players, even if they are lower-order batsmen or tail-enders. The local associations do that as a free service to the visiting team, and also so the youngsters get to rub shoulders with international players and get some valuable tips.
Often, these net bowlers do not even get a cup of tea for their efforts, and have no place to take a wash and change, but they don't complain. They are in close proximity to international players, and if they are lucky, even get a photo taken with them. If one of them is impressive, he may end up with a training shirt or a bat, pair of gloves, or even shoes from a player he impressed.
In countries like England and Australia, local net bowlers have to be paid, even though they may not be up to scratch, and unlike India, who bowl virtually right throughout the session, these bowlers will bowl to only a few batsmen, and then just have a laugh at the back of the nets.
It would be a good idea for the BCCI to ask its counterparts to look for local net bowlers, since there are enough Indians living abroad who have sons who can bowl and have ambitions.
Michael Vaughan's interview to a newspaper did create some ripples, but all was on the backburner as soon as the Test started. Fortunately, cricket is not as big as soccer in the UK, but imagine if such a thing had happened in the soccer team and the captain had said something about a star player. The reverberations would go on and on, with planted and slanted stories from 'sources.' Just like in Indian cricket.