TRENT BRIDGE: With pace spearhead Zaheer Khan’s availability in doubt due to a hamstring strain, India are looking to have a medium-fast bowler added to the squad for the second Test against England, starting Friday.
Zaheer is unlikely to be risked at a venue where he was the architect of India’s win in the Test, and in the series, four years ago with a match haul of 9 for 134.
It was evident from the first Test, which India lost by 196 runs on Monday, that the ability of England’s attack to take 20 wickets was the critical difference between the two sides.
With Zaheer missing and Ishant Sharma and Praveen Kumar taking a huge workload since the tour to the Caribbean, India need an immediate insurance of another fast bowler for the remainder of the tour.
"There is no cricket being played in India at the moment and a fast bowler, if not sent now, could struggle to acclimatise in the conditions," said legendary Pakistan swing bowler Wasim Akram during the Lord’s Test.
"You need a fresh bowler to have a good set of overs under his belt or there would be another breakdown," he added.
So far, there is no word from Indian selectors but it is apparent they need to get together and send an SOS to a young fast bowler immediately.
India’s fast bowling resources at the moment are down to four men – Ishant and Praveen who are suffering a massive workload and S Sreesanth and Munaf Patel who are seriously under-prepared.
Ishant was brilliant in England’s second innings as he was throughout the three-Test tour in the Caribbean, but his workload ought to be a major concern considering three more Tests are scheduled in a matter of 25 days.
In all, Ishant – if he stays on his feet – would have played seven Tests in the West Indies and England in a matter of 63 days.
The tall bowler sent down 54 overs at the Lord’s to go with his average of 41 overs bowled in each Test in the Caribbean.
These figures – seven Tests in two months and 40 overs on an average – applies to Praveen Kumar as well but, as the right-arm medium pacer says, "He is used to bowling 30-35 overs in an innings in domestic cricket."
Besides, his bowling style doesn’t take too much out of him.
Even if both are fit and can sustain the workload, India can’t have the two bowling from both ends throughout. They need a good back-up bowler and both Sreesanth and Munaf Patel look under-cooked.
Sreesanth is returning to the side after missing the trip to the Caribbean due to a right elbow injury and like Zaheer, doesn’t have too many overs under his belt.
Munaf too missed the first two Tests in the Caribbean due to an elbow problem and when recalled for the third, could only take one for 144 from 44 overs against a batting line-up as weak as the West Indies.
Munaf, in any case, was returning to an Indian Test playing XI after two years in the final Test in Dominica.
A good back-up bowler is essential and the proof of it came in England’s second innings at Lord’s when Ishant took four early England wickets but couldn’t bring himself to bowl after lunch, allowing England to recover and make another declaration.
If India lacks the bowling firepower, there is every possibility that England would once again have a declaration or two at Trent Bridge and the visitors’ batting could be under the pump all the time.
Dhoni, before the series began, had said that his side depends critically on the starts which the openers provide and in Virender Sehwag’s absence, it is unlikely he would have that assurance.(PTI)