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Is bowling India's biggest weakness?

Last updated on: August 9, 2010 17:41 IST

Ishant has flattered to deceive

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So it is all square in the three-Test series between India and Sri Lanka.

India won the third and final Test at the P Sara Oval in Colombo to negate the humiliating defeat it suffered in the opening Test at Galle.

The victory enabled the visitors retain the No 1 ranking in Tests, but, at the same time, brought to the fore a question that's been in our minds for some time now.

Is bowling India's biggest weakness? With this bowling attack, for how long can Gary Kirsten's team hold on to the top spot?

When an opening batsman -- Virender Sehwag -- is your best bowler in the series, it is definitely reason to worry.

And there's no point in blaming the wickets. Because you have chosen to play on such tracks yourself.

"It goes without saying that India badly misses Zaheer Khan and Anil Kumble," reasons former chairman of selectors Kiran More, adding, "But their absence is not the only reason why India's bowling has looked so ordinary in Sri Lanka.

"The selectors have never allowed the new bowlers like Irfan Pathan, Munaf Patel, R.P. Singh, Piyush Chawla and others to really settle down in the team.

"By choosing and chopping young bowlers they have dented their confidence. And you can't bowl well without confidence. Munaf should have been picked in the Indian team for the Sri Lankan tour in the first place and not sent as a replacement for an injured player."

Former wicket keeper Nayan Mongia concurs.

"Indian bowling has always looked pretty ordinary without Zaheer Khan and we've to admit that our bowlers have always struggled on the flat wickets in Sri Lanka," he says.

"As if his absence wasn't enough, S. Sreesanth also got injured and couldn't make it to Sri Lanka. But we've to admit that our bowlers have always struggled on the flat wickets in Sri Lanka. 

No doubt they've fared pathetically in Sri Lanka in the current tour. Of course, you can't really expect them to bowl Sri Lanka out twice in a Test match on such placid wickets. More so, when the home batsmen are in terrific form," Mongia adds.

As we continue searching for the answer, let's take a look at how our bowlers performed in the three-Test series and then judge for ourselves if they are worthy of a place in the side on current form.

Ishant Sharma

In the absence of Zaheer Khan, he was the bowling spearhead.

And rather than taking up the responsibility, he flattered to deceive.

He may have ended the series with seven wickets, but they came at a high cost (61.71). His economy rate (4.36) was too flattering by Test standards.

At no point in the series did the Lankan batsmen look troubled by his bowling.

Once considered India's future, Ishant may soon end up being a spent force.

- Kiran More and Nayan Mongia interviews by Haresh Pandya


Image: Ishant Sharma
Photographs: Reuters
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It's too early to judge Mithun

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Abhimanyu Mithun

Considering it was his maiden tour, it is probably too early to judge Abhimanyu Mithun.

With six wickets, four of which came in one innings, Mithun doesn't boast of flattering figures.

But, at least, he displayed an ability to bowl longer spells.

If nurtured properly, he may as well perform better.

On the negative side, he might as well struggle to establish himself on the flat tracks in the subcontinent.

Whatever be the case, the first thing he needs is consistent opportunities.


Image: Abhimanyu Mithun

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Is Harbhajan good enough to lead India's spin attack

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Harbhajan Singh

Disappointing!

The word best describes Harbhajan Singh ever since the retirement of Anil Kumble.

The Turbanator, who always makes the headlines for his views on almost every issue that bothers the world, is yet to find an answer to the only issue that bothers him.

Harbhajan is a good bowler, no doubt. But is he good enough to lead India's spin attack.

When Kumble was around, he would apply the pressure on the batsmen and Harbhajan would to reap its rewards.

But since the former retired, the latter is finding it increasingly difficult. 

The stats below corroborate our argument.

Bowling Record:

Overall:

Tests: 85
Wickets: 357
Average: 31.62
take a look at how our bowlers performed in the three-Test series 67

After Kumble's retirement:

Tests: 14
Wickets: 58
Average: 34.98
S/R: 73


Image: Harbhajan Singh

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So far, so good for Ojha

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Pragyan Ojha

So far, so good.

That is how one can sum up Pragyan Ojha's career.

With the limited opportunities he has got, the left arm spinner has delivered almost every time.

In Sri Lanka, too, he was India's highest wicket-taker, with eight wickets. 

And his four wickets in the first innings in the final Test helped India restrict the opposition.

If he gets the adequate opportunities, he could develop into a long-term option.


Image: Pragyan Ojha

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Limited opportunities for Mishra

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Amit Mishra

In the lone Test he played -- the third and final Test at the P Sara Oval -- Amit Mishra did just enough.

With four wickets in the match, including three in an innings, he played his part in India's win.

But, again, it is the question of opportunities?

How can you expect a bowler to perform well every time when he is not sure of his place in the side.

Mishra, with the limited opportunites he has got, has been impressive.

And his pairing with Ojha in the final Test proved the duo can bowl well in tandem.

But will the team think-tank drop Harbhajan to give a few more opportunities to this new combination?

It's a question that demands an immediate answer.


Image: Amit Mishra

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