In the ongoing series between India and Australia, Mohammad Shami grabbed the attention of the opposition captain George Bailey, who said that his team was caught unawares by the pace generated by the Bengali fast bowler, as well as the movement he was getting. India was, in fact, able to keep Australia to a manageable total after winning the toss and bowling first. Before Shami’s haul, Indian seamers were getting carted about by the Aussies, who are used to playing fast bowling on a regular basis. So the question is: why does Shami not play more often when he can cause such consternation to players who have been playing fast bowling of high quality?
It is not that India does not have fast bowlers, but more often than not it does not play them. Here’s an analysis of the various fast bowlers of India and how they can be utilized.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar: He is a good swing bowler and is capable of taking wickets on any surface on a given day. He should always be a certainty in the team.
Ishant Sharma: He does not get much movement and has lost almost 10 kph in the last few years. In order to be a regular in the team, he needs to have McGrathesque control over line and length, which he does not have. May be he should be allowed to go back to domestic cricket and brought back only if he displays remarkable improvement.
R. Vinay Kumar: Once again, a bowler with little pace and no great movement or evident capability to swing the ball. His main weapons are line and length and his ability to change his pace. He should not be regarded as a long-term prospect.
Parvinder Awana: He is supposed to have good pace, but that missing in the matches that he played for India. Maybe he could be groomed through A tours so that he can one day make a confident return back to the Indian team.
Zaheer Khan: Right now the best seam bowler in India. He can swing the ball and seam it at will. His pace may be gone, but with his skills and immense experience he should be a regular in the Indian team, provided he is fit.
Mohit Sharma: He has really good control over line and length, and can move the ball as well, but in order to have a sustainable international career he needs to work on his pace.
Jaydev Unadkat: He is a promising left-armer who is better suited to one day cricket at the moment. Once again, needs to add pace in order to be considered more of a threat in international cricket.
Umesh Yadav: Capable of bowling really quick, he should be a real asset if he can work on getting his line and length right more often. Still, he should always be in the team as a shock bowler.
Ashok Dinda: He was once regarded as a promising prospect because of his pace but now seems to have lost it. However, he is always confident about his capabilities and should be persisted with, at least in the A games and side matches with visiting international teams.
Mohammed Shami: He always had good pace and now has added to the same, as seen in recent matches. Together with his ability to swing the ball, he should be a mouth-watering prospect.
Varun Aaron: A bowler capable of genuine pace a la Umesh Yadav, he also gets good late movement with it. The BCCI should take special care of him and make sure he is in the national team as much as possible.
Praveen Kumar: He gets good swing, which compensates for his lack of pace. He also performed well in the last few opportunities he got with the Indian team. Kumar should be brought back in the national set-up because of his fighting spirit.
Rudra Pratap Singh: Known more commonly as R. P. Singh, he was once considered a good prospect because of his left-arm angle, decent pace and movement, but has now completely gone off the radar. Still, the board needs to keep him prepared should Dhoni require his services.
Irfan Pathan: Before his injury he was vital to M. S. Dhoni’s plans. As and when he comes back from injury, he should be considered an automatic choice for the squad, at least for his left-arm angle as well as the ability to swing the ball.
Munaf Patel: He does not have much pace but still remains a threat, thanks to his exceptional line and length as well as change of pace. A good bet as far as the one-dayers are concerned.
Lakshmipathy Balaji: He too does not have the pace that he once had and these days he relies more on batsmen making mistakes. However, he still does get some movement and thus can be kept ready through A tours and representative matches.
Manpreet Gony: He gets good bounce that can be disconcerting for most batsmen. The BCCI should try and help him focus on his fitness so that he can increase his pace to a threatening level.
Sudip Tyagi: Once again a good prospect who was surprisingly discarded following a few matches. He should be reinvested in by the BCCI as someone for the future.
Joginder Sharma: He was in the Indian team as a bowling all-rounder. As a bowler he can be deceptive with little changes in pace that could be effective in limited-overs matches on helpful tracks.
V. R. V. Singh: Once regarded as the quickest bowler in India, he is still capable of producing the goods in terms of bounce and has regained some pace of the old. Should be monitored by the selectors.
Avishkar Salvi: Ten years back he was regarded as the next big thing as far as Indian quick bowling was concerned. He has not played much domestic cricket in recent times but I still feel that the BCCI should be making sure he can be utilized in some way.
Ashish Nehra: A very good bowler with his left-arm angle and some decent pace and movement. He could play a vital role in India’s ODI team.
In my humble opinion, a good way to keep these bowlers battle ready is to create a team, say BCCI XI, that will be made up of players who have once represented India. This team can then be sent on tours to smaller countries that are on the verge of international cricket or have them come over and play so that they can gain some exposure.