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By Sunil Gavaskar
The India A team's tour of the West Indies has not given much joy to the national selectors. Apart from Cheteshwar Pujara, who has already shown his talent and temperament at the Test level and a couple of other bowlers not many others grasped the chance to impress the selectors and send a message that they were ready for higher honours, and sterner Tests.
Shami Ahmed and Akshay Darekar are the names to keep an eye out on the bowling side, for they picked wickets and if anything India needs bowlers, who can pick 20 wickets in a Test match. With Zaheer not getting younger and the talented Ishant Sharma not yet fully fit India does have a problem about its bowling attack.
Umesh Yadav was impressive in Australia and Varun Aaron is one, who can be a good foil for him if he can maintain his fitness. Ashwin has done enough to keep his place but, what was seen in England and Australia, was that India did not have the bowlers to deliver the knockout punch after getting the first few wickets cheaply. That is why, it is important to have Ishant fit for he has the ability to bowl teams out. He did not get the guidance that was needed simply because there was no specialist bowling coach to help him in his period of doubt.
Yes, Eric Simmons was the bowling coach, but he was more a general coach as he himself confessed soon after his appointment and not a specialist bowling coach. He tried hard, but at that level you need somebody who has gone through the grind himself and knows how to counter the highs and the lows of international cricket. Australians new fast bowler James Pattinson has also gone on record about having a bowling coach, who knows how to keep the effort level going and who has practical experience than the theories of how to make the ball swing. Clearly he was hinting at the appointment of the assistant bowling coach to Craig McDermott being made the bowling coach for their current tour of England. McDermott had nearly 300 wickets in Test cricket and it was under his guidance that the Aussie blasted India’s famed batting line-up regularly last year in that much anticipated, but eventually much disappointing Test series.
The assertion of the coach of the India a team that there is nothing wrong with the technique of the batsmen is exactly what is not wanted from the coach. In India, coaches tend to protect their wards to the extent of giving them false belief in their abilities and conveying thereby that there is not much improvement need by them. They will make excuses for their players but suggesting that the pitches were not good and so the batsmen did not get the runs that they should have but then if the pitches were bowler friendly why did the bowlers not win the game for them?
The fact is that even a lot of experienced batsmen don’t always adjust their bat speed for the longer version of the game from the one they are using for the limited overs format. The bat speed for the short format is invariably quicker because the effort is to get the ball away while in the first class version sometimes it is better to play with soft hands to ensure the ball does not pop up in the air. Sometimes dabbing the ball at ones feet is demoralising to a quick bower, who feels that his bounce will un-ruffle the batsman and have him fend the ball away, but when he sees the ball dropping dead at the batsman’s feet he has to think of another ball to try and get his man.
The technical committee has recommended that the pitches be livened up and that the pitches committee should go to the venue of the matches ten days before the match to ensure that the pitch will have enough bounce and carry. While it is a laudable idea it is hard to implement, since most teams will say that it is their prerogative to prepare the pitch to suit its own strengths. That has been the biggest stumbling block as there simply has been no will to punish the associations that prepare bad pitches just to get the points needed to go ahead on the scoreboard.
If the associations get fined monetarily as well as lose points for preparing pitches unsuitable for good cricket then maybe there is a chance of pitches that will provide the balance between bat and ball. But, for that to happen everybody has to forget their own interests in favour of Indian cricket. It has not happened for all these years and it doesn’t look likely to happen in a hurry either but let us wait and see. I am always an optimist as far as Indian cricket is concerned and believe that there are enough people in the BCCI, who care deeply about Indian cricket, but they need to express themselves and not worry if by doing so their positions will be jeopardised.
The tech committee’s recommendations will go up before the working committee and it is here that those, who care for Indian cricket, will be seen. It is also crucial that the chairman of the tech committee be invited for the discussion on these recommendations so that exact reasons for the recommendations be explained to the working committee.
It is a small step for the BCCI, but a big one for Indian cricket.