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Bullish? India blunted by bowling blues

Even Rahul Dravid had acknowledged during the ODIs that whenever he needed a wicket, he thought of Ajit Agarkar.

india Updated: Jun 24, 2006 17:26 IST

It was widely discussed for years that India don't win Test matches abroad because they don't have the bowlers to get 20 wickets in conditions where among other things, the ball doesn't spin. Even the most venerated spinners have often been accused of being unable to succeed while playing away.

The way this series is going, keeping in mind that India are still to win a Test, the above mentioned theory doesn't hold much water. Taking 19 wickets in the first Test and 17 in just over two days in the second were no mean achievements, taking into consideration that the pitches didn't exactly offer much assistance to the bowlers.

Having taken into account this performance in the first two Tests, it is still worthwhile to take a look at what bowling options the Indians have here and what they could have had. The performance and selection of the fast bowlers are to be looked into critically because that is one area that has undergone drastic changes.

Of the four quicks the wise men of Indian cricket have picked, the only one to have really troubled the opposition is Munaf Patel (his unhappy record against Sarwan on Friday notwithstanding).

The number of wickets he has taken -11 till Day 1 of the third Test - is not the most significant index of the impact he has made. It's about the way he has bowled, for the most.

Despite the horror of that one over against Sarwan, Patel has certainly been able to get the seam to hit the deck more often than his fellow fast bowlers, which has helped him get some sideways movement - something others have struggled to extract.

Also, he has been the most consistent in terms of length, trying to make the batsmen play on the front foot, and most of the wickets he has got so far have come off such deliveries.

The same can't be said of the other quick bowlers, of whom Irfan Pathan has been most dis appointing. It was a sorry sight really when the wicketkeeper came up to the stumps when he was bowling in the second Test.

Not that Pathan has lost that potential but he has some work to do to rediscover him.

Not much has been seen of Vikram Rajvir Singh so it would be unfair to write him off or elevate him to great heights.

S Sreesanth, on the other hand, is an interesting case study. He exudes the entire energy youth can and runs in real hard. For some strange reason, that energy is yet to be translated into good deliveries on this tour. The sooner that happens, the better for him and the team.

This is where the absence of Ajit Agarkar looks bizarre. Not that he had lived up to the immense potential he once showed, but there were signs of maturity and consistency in his recent performances.

Even Rahul Dravid had acknowledged during the ODIs that whenever he needed a wicket he thought of Agarkar. It looks all the more surprising because Ramesh Powar is in the squad as a third spinner with the team hardly being able accommodate two.

Did the selectors expect West Indies to prepare turning tracks, in which case Powar's presence as a back-up spinner could have been justified? Sadly, such questions are rarely answered in Indian cricket.