Blamegame Part II: Indian Bowlers Battered and Blamed

When the series started Indian bowling unit looked formiddable. There were talks on how Zaheer Khan spearheaded Indian bowling attack would excel in the swing favouring conditions in England and lead India to crush England. Scoreline of 4-0 leaves nothing to comment. So What went wrong! Why!! In fact, did anything went in favor of Indian bowlers!!

7 full-time and 4 part-time Indians bowled during the series. Together they could manage to bowl out England only twice in the six innings of four tests they bowled to England.

    Full Time bowlers: Zaheer, Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Sreesanth, RP Singh, Harbhajan and Amit Mishra
    Part-time bowlers: Raina, Dhoni, Yuvraj and Tendulkar

Their best performance was bowling out England twice in the second test. Even there while in the first innings the bowlers took all 10 wickets, in the second innings, England gifted most of the wickets after playing an ODI inning to set a high target for Indian batsmen. Not surprisingly in the overall bowling performance except Praveen none comes closer to English bowlers.

Facts About Indian Bowlers

    47 wickets taken in 6 innings.
    2809 runs given to English batsmen.
    732.5 overs bowled by Indian bowlers.
    Twice bowled out England in an inning.
    16 overs – Bowled by Indian bowler for every wicket
    3.83 – Average English run rate for the series.

Zaheer – The Spearhead Returns Before Firing
Besides the first two sessions of the Nottingham Test, in every innings Indian bowlers were waiting for their torture to finish, almost pleading them to declare. Zaheer was impressive in his only session he played. Bowling 13.3 overs, he grabbed first two wickets of the series for India. With 8 maidens he gave only 18 runs. He was the justified spearhead of the then bowling attack of World Number One team. But then was he supposed to take 80 wickets in 8 innings of 4 tests!! What about the rest!!

Praveen – The Most Impressive Bowler
Praveen Kumar played only the second Test series of his international career. Like his first series against West Indies, he was again the most successful Indian bowler of the series. Without playing 4th test, he took 15 wickets. His bowling spell of 158.3 overs 38 maidens 443/15 was the best for India. And, the slow swing bowler grabbed the only 5-wicket haul by India when he had 106/5 in 1st innings of 1st test at Lord’s.

Ishant and Sreesanth
The two senior bowlers of Indian team had the opportunity to show why they are the in the playing XI of World Number One team. Ishant played all four tests. Sreesanth played three tests. While Ishant and Sreesanth had the best conditions to excel, unlike the challenging Indian pitches that are non-pacer friendly. Yet, their bowling spells prove how bad they fared!!

    Ishant Sharma 173.1 ov 33 maidens 644/11
    Sreesanth 111 ov 12 maidens 493/8

Except few short spells of both, that never resulted in Indians having edge, both were teethless. While Anderson and Tremlett tasted success, the same pitches turned unfavorable when both these bowled. Only runs leaked, English wickets remained intact unless English batsmen took extra risk. While Stuart Broad, who was a surprise pick for the series after being overlooked earlier, went on to earn Player of the series award with a hattrick performance, Indian pacer Sreesanth could just stare and shook his head on being hit and being unimpressive.

Ishant has got the maximum opportunities in Indian colors but failed to impress at home or Away. Sreesanth who should have been hungry for success and ready to rock opponent with his preparation after being left out of team for a long time, became just a fodder to English batsmen.

Harbhajan and Amit Mishra
Harbhajan has been criticised a lot in the past for his lackadaisical approach. England tour proved again gave the critic a plenty to talk against him. Everyone agrees that the pitches in Test series were not spinner-friendly. But, while Bishoo outperformed him West Indies, English spinner Swann outperformed him in England. While Swann went on to grab 6 wickets in an inning in the fourth test where Harbhajan did not play, even in first three tests he was impressive although not successful.

Harbhajan failed to bite with ball, but more than that failed to even live upto the 400-wicket holder tag of one of the best bowlers of the World Cricket (in terms of wicket). His bowls never looked dangerous. In the end his bowling spell was a bad dream for him. He should expect that it was just a dream and does not turn into long time reality.

    Harbhajan Singh 69.4 ov 5 maidens 287/2
    Amit Mishra 81 ov 5 maidens 320/3

Harbhajan played three tests, while Amit Mishra played last two tests. But Amit Mishra’s performance in last two tests of the series proved why Harbhajan can get away with such pathetic performances for some more time. Just like lack of of pacers, India does not even have a replacement of spinners. When Swann was taking plenty of wickets, Amit Mishra went wicketless in the last test and falling short by just 20 runs to become the first Indian bowler to concede 200 runs without taking a wicket in an inning. Although as a batsmen he finished the series as the top 5 Indian batsmen on tour, playing just 4 innings.

RP Singh and Munaf Patel
England has so many options in fast bowling that Bresnan was not giving chance to play, despite good performances in his last 5 tests. Tremlett’s injury helped him to sneak in the playing squad. And the bowling record shows how much he enjoyed it and how he continued to remain lucky mascot of England. England has won all the 8 tests in which he has played so far.

RP Singh, like Bresnan, got a call to play from nowhere. The 2007 Twenty20 World Cup hero of India and IPL King of Indian bowling (for first 3 seasons) had not played international cricket for a long time. When Praveen Kumar got injured he got another opportunity to revive his career. In fact despite having Munaf Patel in the Indian squad at England, RP Singh flew and played ahead of Munaf Patel. But unlike Broad, who said his County stint during his absence from English team helped him perform better, RP Singh was not ready for the call. His wicketless spell prove that.

    34 overs 7 maidens 118/0

Munaf Patel must be laughing within. While RP Singh should be sure to be forgotten for another endless number of series, Ishant and Sreesanth can see the writing on the wall, unless BCCI wants to continue with his mysterious ways of team selection, Munaf Patel would be sure to be selected for the next series as he was the only bowler who did not fail in Test series, as he was never selected – a blessing in disguise probably for him.

Part-Time Bowlers
India used four batsmen for bowling. Although not successful in terms of affecting a result, Raina was more successful than Harbhajan and Amit Mishra, and bowled almost same number of overs in the series as the main spinners bowled in the series. Surprisingly even Dhoni tried his bowling that too at the crucial juncture at Lord’s. Yuvraj did manage an important wicket. Tendulkar could not do much.

    Raina 63.4 ov 5 maidens 251/4
    Yuvraj 12 ov 52/1
    Dhoni 10 ov 1 maiden 39/0
    Tendulkar 6 ov 28/0

Summary
Indian bowlers may claim their performance was better than Indian batsmen. Yet, the fact is all of them except Praveen Kumar, need to go back to school to claim themselves eligible to represent Team India. Many would ask what are the options!! But, if the first choice option perform so bad, even in bowling friendly conditions, then fresh faces may not have performed worse. Time for BCCI to take tough calls!! Or else Indian Cricket is bound to enter Kapil Dev era, where except Kapil India did not produce a quality bowler, for almost a decade, who could last long.

Indian fielding and keeping was below par. They also contributed to the poor performance of bowlers by not grabbing whatever opportunity that came into their hand. Yet, that does not take the blame away from bowlers who bowled as if they were on English vacation. In fact after being batterred on field, even Captain Dhoni – himself a major failure – blamed them for almost all the defeats. Like Dhoni, even Indian fans wish if bowlers could have done more!!

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