The Test series is all set to begin, and both India and Pakistan seem to be struggling to find the best bowling combination to go with for the match. A hallmark of a good test side is a good bowling attack: one that is capable of picking 20 wickets every match. Unfortunately, our subcontinent neighbors and we have routinely grappled with this problem. And its no different this time.
India was getting it all into place when injury struck. Sree and RP have been ruled out of the first test, and the fast bowling attack seems overly depleted with only Zaheer at the helm now. Munaf Patel has done precious little to warrant a place in the side, and whenever he has, he has gone and got himself injured time and again. Fitness is a key aspect for a quick bowler, and unless Munaf gets over the fitness issue, he is going to have a stop- go career. Ishant Sharma, Joginder Sharma and VRV Singh just don’t inspire confidence in the selectors.
An option that the selectors may contemplate is Irfan Pathan. However, he just is not the bowler he once was. Bowling line and length at 130 KPH with clever pace variations may be good for containment in the one day game, but is hardy going to be effective in a test match. And speaking of one day cricket, Harbhajan needs to learn to flight the ball and look for wickets as well, something he has not quite managed to do.
Looking at Pakistan, their problem is more self-induced than forced. Without Mohammad Asif, they lack a genuine seam bowler at the top. Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Sami have still not learnt that intimidation and sheer pace without movement is not going to get you anything in international cricket. The faster you bowl, the faster the ball will leave the bat. Brett Lee took a while to understand this and one wonders how long it will be before Sami and Akhtar realize the same. The only world class option that they have now is Umar Gul, and he looks to be the sole threat to the Indian top order.
Pakistan have had a legacy of great fast bowlers, but Sami, Akhtar and Gul do not invoke the fear that Wasim and Waqar, or Nawaz and Khan would bring. The best opton for them now is to ensure that they don’t squabble with each other, and support their spearhead: Gul. Shoaib Akhtar needs to be told in no uncertain terms that for him to be the spearhead of the bowling attack; he has to prove himself by taking wickets, and not by bowling straight balls that go for plenty.
The batting orders of both teams look well settled. Rahul Dravid’s return will bolster the Indian middle order. Yasir Hameed playing will ensure that Pakistan have a proper opening pair. The only batsman who will feel as if he has missed out will be Gautam Gambhir, but his chance will come sooner rather than later.
So the series is all set to begin. It’s a whole new ball game now. It is going to be hard rigorous cricket, and the better team will be the one with the better bowling one feels.