Cricket: Indian bowlers hold key in Test matches in England

By Denzil Fernandes
Sports Editor -

London, Jul 15: There was a time in the past when Indian bowlers were said to be non violent and weak at heart.  None of that any more.  After an earlier period  when the spinners dominated in most of India’s victories, the wheel has changed fully now and the pace merchants are taking a prime position in India’s cricketing fortunes. 
When the first Test starts at Lord’s on July 21 with probably a full house in attendance, India’s most dangerous pacer Zaheer Khan is likely to take full charge of the action in the middle. 

With an experience of at least  78 tests behind him, Zaheer is now an important member of India’s eleven with the task of nurturing all the other younger bowlers.   Zaheer has taken more than 250 test wickets with just  over 33 runs per wicket and will be the mainstay of India’s bowling in England.  He was the joint leading wicket taker along with Shahid Afridi in the 2011 Cricket World Cup.  With favourable conditions that will suit his bowling in England, Zaheer will be a handful for the England batsmen.  Backing him will be Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Munaf Patel and Sreesanth who are all eager to prove their mettle in England.  Praveen today is an exceptional opening bowler with more guile with varied pace that deceived the batsman. 

His temperament and experience in the IPL matches have made him a force wherever he plays.  Young Ishant is coming to England after a sensational performance in the West Indies where he excelled with his bowling and was also the man of the series there.  England have to watch out for the lanky lad who will be an able ally for Zaheer.  Then there is Munaf Patel  who has come a long way from his lethargic days when he started playing cricket.  At one stage, I was not sure if he would be in the side simply because he was a liability on the field.  Blessed with a clever bowling mind, Munaf is a changed player today.  Having taken plenty of pains to improve his fielding, Munaf is becoming a match winner for Team India.  The ever enthusiastic and hot headed Sreesanth is lucky to be in England and one has no doubt that he will do his best to be in the playing eleven.  The Kerala pacer is back after his injury problems and if only he stays away from his on field problems, Dhoni will pick him for his big hearted bowling.
Backing the pace merchants will be India’s spinning star Harbhajan Singh.  After the departure of Anil Kumble, the mantle has fallen on the mercurial Bhajji to be India’s trump card.  Harbhajan has not looked back and has managed to be in the wickets time and time again.  While his bowling has been always tight and economical, he has also improved his batting in a big way and almost now become a useful all rounder.    

Like pacer Sreesanth, Harbhajan can also turn out to be a wee bit temperamental on the field.  That shows his true Punjab blood and his spats with Sreesanth in the IPL as well with Andrew Symonds of Australia in the Tests in the past are still fresh in memory. 
It is not going to be an easy affair for the Indian bowlers despite their promise especially when they are playing in England.  The conditions can help the bowlers but they have also to encounter the England batsman who are playing on home soil.  Skipper Strauss, Cook, Pietersen and so many others  like them are in prime form and in buoyant mood after their series win against Sri Lanka earlier.  It will a very fine battle between bat and ball without doubt. 

England who are generally suspect against spin will find a tough customer in Harbhajan Singh who can run away if he strikes regularly. 

The key for India’s progress will be the strike bowlers who have to quickly  settle down and find their rhythm.  For sure, the West Indies tour would have given some good practice for  India’s speedsters and if they continue with the good work in England the chances of  prevailing are very much possible.   Bolstered by the return of Zaheer and Sreesanth there surely will be a spring in the attack and with good backing in the field India may as well turn out a pleasing display in the tests ahead. 

The top ranked Indian side will not be in a mood to let any side take their position in international cricket.  The forthcoming Test series against England is going to be mouth watering and whichever team comes up with their battery of bowlers fully charged will be the one to stand on the top of the winning platform.  Dhoni versus Strauss will be a great battle that will keep every cricket lover on the edge of their seats.

Enjoy your cricket.

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