The Indian cricket team had a disappointing series in South Africa, and one of the reasons for the same was the fact that their bowlers struggled in both the Tests and the one-dayers. The story was rather similar in the one-dayers at home against Australia. Although India went to clinch the series, it was mainly because their batting was top-notch throughout the series. While India’s batting will be tested in New Zealand, they will not win unless their bowlers are able to grab 20 wickets, which looks a difficult scenario presently.
Disappointing as it may sound, India’s bowling cupboard looks pretty bare at the moment. In the last decade, India won a few Tests outside the sub-continent particularly because they had bowlers who could bowl out the opposition twice. Zaheer Khan was at his peak and provided crucial breakthroughs for India. At various points, Ajit Agarkar, Ashish Nehra and Sreesanth played good supporting acts. Then, the spin duo of Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh combined very well even away from home and made substantial contributions, as India shed their poor travellers tag to an extent under Ganguly and Dravid.
The present scenario is completely in contrast. Zaheer’s career is now on its last legs, and if he doesn’t do well in New Zealand, his international journey will be all but over. Also, Zaheer has no experienced hand to support him. Ishant Sharma has played over 50 Tests, but the experience hasn’t helped him become a better bowler. He showed signs of improvement in South Africa, but the inconsistency in his game came to the fore when he couldn’t help India claim a victory at Johannesburg in spite of many overs and a big target to defend.
If we look at the present squad, most of the pacemen are relatively inexperienced, who have a lot to prove in international cricket. Mohammed Shami has made an impressive beginning, but he has a long way to go before being labeled as a permanent fixture in the squad. Bhuvneshwar Kumar has done well in phases, but his lack of pace has often proved to be a handicap in situations when India have needed to attack all-out. Varun Aaron has been recalled to the squad after a gap of over two years. The fast bowler made an impact with his pace early on, but it remains to be seen how injury has affected him.
The scenario is not too pleasing in the spin department as well. Harbhajan Singh has just not been the same since Anil Kumble retired. He has lost his zing, and as a result, it has been a while since he has played for India. Ravichandran Ashwin has performed excellently at home, but has been equally ineffectual abroad. They do have the option of Pragyan Ojha, but he has never been given a chance to prove his worth away from home.
Clearly, there is much to ponder upon for India in the bowling department as they take on New Zealand.
--By A Cricket Analyst