A little more than a year back when the IPL was going on the general feeling among fans of India cricket was that there was an embarrassment of riches as far as fast bowling goes. There was a resurgent Zaheer Khan, the exciting young Ishanth Sharma, quality swing bowling options in RP Singh and Praveen Kumar, the workmanlike Munaf Patel, the unpredictable yet exciting Sreesanth and the guy we all loved Irfan Pathan, all with decent international experience and performance. Then there was the likely comeback men like L Balaji and Ashish Nehra and the young uncapped Dhaval Kulkarni, Manpreet Gony and Ashok Dinda besides the likes of Siddharth Trivedi and an ageing Ajit Agarkar.
After a year the picture is not looking as rosy as it was. The domestic season ahs taken its toll. RP Singh and Praveen Kumar hardly impressed though the altter has hung on to his ODI place. Sreesanth was out becasue of injury and has hardly created an impact to warrant selection now. Munaf Patel, though a talented bowler, defies logic in this modern age of stress on fitness, with his lethargic and inflexible body that gets injured often. After today’s performance and his recent bowling efforts I am not convinced if Irfan Pathan can make it to the Indian team as the third seam bowling option behind Zaheer and Ishanth. Manpreet Gony flattered to deceive and Siddharth Trivedi could probably at best be considered a poor man’s Munaf Patel who gets by with a keen cricketing brain. Nehra and Garkar are not in the picture any more. So that leaves the last 2 selections L Balaji and Kulkarni, the remaining names from that bunch who made it to the team on the strength of their domestic performances. Dinda will probably get a look in this year if he continues to impress in the IPL.
So where do we go from here in the next couple of years. Zaheer will bowl for a couple of years atleast and Ishanth is developing very nicely. After that the cupboard is bare. Balaji’s comeback after that back operation is nothing short of a miracle and he gets by today more with his experience and intellect than with any pace. So where are the faster men? Will we able to produce a set of bowlers who can amintain a pace of 140 komh plus for atleast 5 or 6 years? Of course there is the usual complaint of batsmen friendly unhelpful tracks that will never improve becasue of the way our domestic cricket system is run. Right from the senior division leagues every pitch is doctored to such an extent that it is very very difficult to produce sporting pitches.
The other side of the argument when asked how other teams manage to get fast men regularly is that they don’t get as many spinners as we do. But then are we producing quality spinners atleast? The only area where I see consistent improvement is in the batsmen and the centuries they keep piling up. If India needs to target the no 1 spot and hold on t it for decent length of time it needs to gets its fast bowling act together quickly.