The end of a long Australian summer was capped by India’s stirring win against Australia in the CB Series Final. At the end of the series, I reflected on the fact that the win in the last game was achieved without the services of India’s front-line pace-attack: Zaheer Khan, R. P. Singh and Ishant Sharma. All three were nursing injuries in that game. The fact that Ishant Sharma had propelled himself into the front-line was itself testimony to the impact he has had over the Australian summer!
I then realised that, for the Test Series in Australia, we had two additional pacemen in Pankaj Singh and V. R. V. Singh who made up the numbers.
But then, the heroes of the CB series final match were actually Praveen Kumar, Sree Santh and Irfan Pathan! Munaf Patel can be a very good bowler on his day too!
If you then throw into the mix, Pradeep Sangwan, Siddharth Kaul and Ajitesh Argal — pace-bowling architects of India’s U19 triumph, the Indian fan can smile!
The Indian Pace Academy is then: Zaheer Khan, R. P. Singh, Irfan Pathan, Ishant Sharma, Sree Santh, Munaf Patel, Praveen Kumar, V. R. V. Singh, Pankaj Singh, Pradeep Sangwan, Siddharth Kaul, Ajitesh Argal.
Not a bad pace bowling lineup in my view! India’s pace bowling stocks over the next 5 years will come from this lot of 12 bowlers. There will be, no doubt, a few surprise packages here and there along the way. But my feeling is that the above group of 12 will be the ones doing the rounds over the next few years. If all else fails, there is always Ajit Agarkar! It is quite likely that, of these 12 players, 3-4 will be injured. Team India has to learn to shrug and call up the next bowler in the ranks and if they are as good as Praveen Kumar, Sree Santh or Munaf Patel, it can’t really be too bad, can it?
Team India has to nurture these pace bowlers and ensure that they do not fade away from the scene like L. Balaji did. It is time, in my view, to appoint Venkatesh Prasad as India’s long-term pace-bowling coach. He should be entrusted with the task of developing concrete development plans for each bowler and for these to be conditioned and supervised even when the players aren’t playing for Team India.
Unfortunately, Team India is not that flush with options when it comes to spin-stocks. More on that later.