Two TN players making their debut for their state team made an impact this year. 22-year old Vijay was one of them, scoring 628 runs from 7 games. The other was a tall 20 year old offspinner, who is in the 3rd year of his Engineering College degree – R. Ashwin.
He took 5 wickets in an innings four times and ten wickets in a match twice and ended up with a tally of 31 wickets at the strike rate of 40.2 balls/wicket. He is not an off-spinner in the conventional mode, but uses his height to extract more bounce and also bowls quite fast (Shades of Kumble, perhaps). In spite of his non-classical bowling action, he still manages to get quite a bit of drift and turn – most of his wickets have been bat-pad and bowled through the gate, which are classical off-spinner dismissals.
With just one season and 4 first class games under his belt, he still has a long way to go before he can play for India. He won the domestic “Best bowler” award for the year and is considered by many to be a sure prospect for India – only time will tell.
To move up the ranks, he also has to pay more attention to his fielding, which is considered to be one of his major weaknesses.
Midway through the South Africa series, the name of Ishant Sharma popped up as a likely replacement for an injured Munaf. He had played just four first class at that time and it speaks of the confidence the selectors have on this young fast bowler.
Just 18 years of age, he is a towering 6 foot 4 and is nicknamed Lambu for obvious reasons. For an 18 year old, he is able to clock up 133km/hr and extract good bounce using his height. But he is not quite the finished product yet – his coach feels “his run-up and body position needs a lot of ironing” and he needs to improve his physique to sustain at this level.
His first class wicket tally stands at 29 wickets in 6 games at an average of 20.10. He has also represented India in U-19 and has taken 21 wickets in 6 matches. Like R.Ashwin, he needs more matches and at least another season under his belt before he can seriously challenge the others for a place in the Indian squad.