India's insipid bowling attack laid bare

The lacklustre bowling performance by the Indians in the warm-up game has exposed the chink in the armour of the visitors.

india Updated: Sep 09, 2005 19:02 IST

The insipid bowling performance by the Indians in the warm-up cricket game against a second string Zimbabwe side has exposed the chink in the armour of the visitors.

There has been concern in the Indian team over the manner in which the fast bowlers shaped up against Zimbabwe Board XIon Thursdayand it does not look unfounded.

Zaheer Khan went for over 100 runs in his 20 overs and Laxmipathy Balaji was no good either. The worry is they do not look like doing any better.

One could say in sympathy that they are fresh from India and conditions were hostile to them - a sluggish pitch and a run-up which suddenly gets elevated at the point of delivery. But still the opponents are nothing but a second string Zimbabwe about whom a factory of jokes are in circulation.

Looking at the taxing season ahead, an ageing Anil Kumble, a Harbhajan Singh who is not in the best of form and no other spinner lurking in the background - do not inspire confidence.

One also starts wondering if the pacemen's farm is similarly barren.

An Irfan Pathan and an Ashish Nehra still look reasonable in one-day internationals, especially when the conditions are helpful, but the latter has not played a Test for over a year and, anyway, is presently a subject of analysis by specialists in South Africa.

Zaheer Khan's run-ins with injuries in the past few seasons seem to have left permanent scars on his mental make-up. There is no real transfer of weight or no real planting of front foot which gives a fast bowler his energy. It is a typical syndrome with a fast bowler who is worried about his ankle and knee.

It indeed is a moment of reckoning for the fast bowler who at his prime had his skipper gushing in praise.

These days though, he is either giving fitness tests in public to satisfy his physio and coach (like in Sri Lanka last year) or feeling mortified at being left-out of the one-day squad.

Balaji too seems to have gone haywire with his action in a matter of a season. His comeback against Pakistan earlyin 2005was brilliant: The pronounced movement to go with sharppace and bounce, but none of it is now in evidence. Between Sri Lanka and what he dished at Mutare on Thursday, it would appear that he again has tinkered with his action. Whether it's because of wrong advices or fear of injury is anybody's guess.

That India plays 12 Tests against the likes of Sri Lanka, Pakistan, England and the West Indies till May next in similar subcontinent-like conditions begs one to revisit the stats junkyard.

Zaheer has been involved in 18 series in which 12 have been played in the Indian sub-continent for 23 of his 38 Tests. In these 23 Tests he has picked up 56 wickets - the figure gets particularly gnawing if one remembers this include 16 scalps picked up against the likes of Zimbabwe (8) and Bangladesh (8). In none of these 23 Tests he has had a five-wicket haul.

Balaji's case is recent and skips such intense scrutiny because of his promise.

There is one mitigating factor which could be held against these stats. It is Indian spinners who bowl the bulk of overs in our conditions and pacers get only handful of overs. But Indian pitches are no longer proving to be spinners' dustbowls, unless and until it is designer's work like the Mumbai pitch against Australia in 2004.

Whatever the case may be, Kumble and Harbhajan have not weaved wonders. Their deliveries are no hand grenades which would explode the moment they hit the turf.

It is looking further bleak for them since the present team management of Greg Chappell and company is intent on cutting out all escape routes for those who don't have the passion, energy or talent to serve their country.

A pointer to it came last evening as a battered Indian team made its way to pavilion at the end of the day's play. They were stopped midway by Chappell and his army of support staff. Instead of winding down, Chappell ordered them an intense short session which involved hard running and sharp catching.

It appears there would be more of it in days to come.

First Published: Sep 09, 2005 19:02 IST