A potential missing link

The absence of a part-time medium-pacer might haunt India in the World Cup

Virat Kohli is the only one who can don the role of a part-time medium-pacer in the Indian team. File Photo

But watching the Indians going through their paces at the National Cricket Academy premises offered pointers to, perhaps, an unnoticed aspect-- the lack of part-time medium-pacers. It was the frontline pace bowlers -- Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Munaf Patel and S Sreesanth -- who were doing all the hard yards, and there were instances when they erred in line and length.

They had ample chances to rectify those errors at nets on a hot Thursday afternoon, but they will certainly not get that luxury once the tournament proper begins, when even the minutest error will be punished mercilessly. With the first 15 overs effectively being Power Play overs, the pressure is entirely on the bowlers to maintain an exemplary line and length and contain the opposition batsmen. But even the best in business -- Zaheer & co form one of the better set of pace bowlers in the World Cup -- can have an off day.

The Men in Blue are most likely to field three pace bowlers in the WC as they have been doing in one-dayers in India for a while now, along with Harbhajan Singh as the lone specialist spinner with part-timers like left-arm spinner Yuvraj Singh or offie Yusuf Pathan doing the second spinner’s duty.

But on a pitch that also warrants the use of a second specialist spinner, India might found wanting. Hence the significance of a part-time medium-pacer who can give some relief to the main bowlers, going through three or four overs quickly.

Other teams are, perhaps, a step ahead of India in this area. Australia have Shane Watson and South Africa have Jacques Kallis who can perform the extra seamer’s role besides being the premier batsmen in their respective teams.

Even a team with a rather conventional approach like England have been trying to develop Jonathan Trott into the role of a part-time quick to complement Paul Collingwood.
In earlier days, India used to have utility pacers in Sourav Ganguly (100 wickets from 311 matches, economy: 5.06), Ajay Jadeja (20 wickets from 196 matches, economy: 5.2) and Sachin Tendulkar (154 wickets from 444 matches, economy: 5.2 through a combination of medium-pace and spin of all kinds before he stopped bowling regularly).

Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni was aware of the situation.
“You have to see which venue you are playing in and the wicket that has been provided. If you know the wicket is not slow and it is a flat pitch, then it becomes a bit tricky and playing with two pacers and three spinners can be bit difficult,” Dhoni observed. 

The only viable option is Virat Kohli as he can turn his arm for a couple of overs. The Delhi lad’s efforts with the ball thus far have not been encouraging, going without a single wicket in 45 one-dayers at 6.20 while bowling just 58 balls at the international level. The Indian team management had a golden chance to develop Kohli’s bowling skills ahead of the World Cup on helpful South African pitches, but they let it go and it might be a bit late to develop him into a genuine part-timer with the big show just a week away.

But the Gary Kirsten-Dhoni combine has the habit of plucking apples from thin air, and they will have to repeat it this time too.

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