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Team Analysis
by Partab Ramchand
Jul 15, 2007

The Indian batting is strong but the bowling is suspect. That is the gist of the arguments while analyzing the touring squad to England. On first glance is does look like this is not far from the mark. Batting has been India’s traditional strength and even on the previous tour five years ago it was more the batting than the bowling that saw the four Test series shared 1-1. The lustrous batting line up fully lived up to its lofty stature hitting seven hundreds and in successive matches India notched up totals of 397, 424 for eight, 628 for eight declared and 508. But to their credit Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh with 26 wickets between them also played a commendable role in the notable performance.

This time again it is taken for granted that the batting is formidable enough to counter anything the English bowlers might come up with. It’s really an embarrassment of riches the Indians possess and nothing signifies this more than the fact that Yuvraj Singh and VVS Laxman might have to fight it out for the No 6 slot. But do the Indians have the firepower in the bowling to cause problems for the likes of Michael Vaughan and Kevin Pietersen, Alistair Cook and Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood and Andrew Strauss? Certainly the showing in the two first class games before the first Test is a cause for some concern. However the unheralded line up can take heart from the fact that Indian bowlers have done reasonably well over 14 tours of England dating back to 1932. Whether in the first half or in the second, in wet conditions or dry weather, through pace or spin Indian bowlers, though almost always in the shadow of the batsmen, have performed gallantly and have helped shape the four victories the tourists have notched up in 45 Tests.

Even in the formative years when the Indians were up against much more experienced opposition bowlers like Md Nissar, Amar Singh, Lala Amarnath, Vinoo Mankad, Ghulam Ahmed and Subash Gupte came up with notable performances. Of course it was only to be expected the spin quartet of Bedi, Prasanna, Chandra and Venkat would have their moments in England and in the late 70s and 80s Kapil Dev not only performed heroically but also inspired other pacemen to come good. The two victories in 1986 were shaped by the medium paced quartet of Kapil, Chetan Sharma, Roger Binny and Madan Lal with minimal help from Maninder Singh’s left arm spinners. Dilip Doshi was another left arm spinner to be among the wickets four years before while in 1996 it was the new ball duo of Venkatesh Prasad and Javagal Srinath who relished bowling in English conditions and troubled the England batsmen no end.

So it can be seen that both Indian pace and spin have done well in England and that as I said could inspire the present set up to emulate some of their predecessors. That encouraging note aside, it must be admitted that the relative inexperience of the attack is a worrying factor. Zaheer Khan and Anil Kumble were members of the squad five years ago while the veteran leg spinner of course also made the tours of 1990 and 1996. Kumble’s record in England however is not a comforting thought 22 wickets from seven Tests at an average of 45.8. It must also not be forgotten that he will not have his long time partner Harbhajan bowling in tandem. Zaheer was quite expensive five years ago 11 wickets at almost 44 apiece but in the last couple of years he has had a string of splendid performances around the county circuit and his greater experience should stand him in good stead. But a lot would depend upon him for RP Singh, Sreesanth and Ranadeb Bose lack the experience and the credentials to sparkle. Likewise Ramesh Powar’s off spinners are unlikely to cause a major threat to the thoroughly professional England batting.

So it appears that the onus will still be on the highly rated batting line up for India to put up a worthy show while the team management will no doubt hope that Zaheer and Kumble put their experience to good use to try and throttle Vaughan and company. It will not be an easy task but surprises never cease. Whoever expected Chetan Sharma to take ten wickets in a Test in 1986 the only time an Indian bowler has achieved this feat in England?

 
More Views by Partab Ramchand
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