'Chance for bowlers to step up'

Nehras comeback thrills bowling coach Prasad

Keeping A Keen Eye: Bowling cocach Venkatesh Prasad watches Ashish Nehra. DH photo

The seasoned Zaheer Khan apart, Ishant Sharma, RP Singh, Praveen Kumar, Irfan Pathan, Munaf Patel and S Sreesanth have played crucial roles at various stages in the Indian team’s wins over the last couple of years.

As Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men gear up for a fresh season, they will be without the services of premier fast bowler Zaheer for at least a while now. The left-armer may not be missed much on the slow Colombo wickets during next month’s tri-series, but Dhoni would have loved to have Zaheer in his ranks in the Champions Trophy in South Africa.

Zaheer’s absence, however, provides the likes of Ishant, Praveen, RP Singh and the returning Ashish Nehra an opportunity to stand up to the challenge. “No doubt, Zaheer’s non-availability is a big blow, but you’ve got to move forward and place trust in the bowlers you have,” said bowling coach Venkatesh Prasad at the conclusion of the four-day preparatory camp on Sunday.

“Someone should step up to the plate and take the lead. Of course, we have an experienced bowler in Nehra, but others are not exactly greenhorns. They have been around for about two years now and have done the job for India before. Having said that, it has to come from within and they should look at it as a great chance to establish themselves in the side,” said

Talking of Nehra, Prasad termed the Delhiite’s return to the side as fantastic. “He is somebody who has worked hard on his comeback after a gap of so many years. He has worked on his fitness, has bowled long spells in domestic cricket and obviously has been in fine form. He has made the best use of his recall so far and I am sure his presence will add more experience to our bowling,” he noted.

The former India medium-pacer was pleased with the appearance of his bowlers despite the long break. “They look slim and fit and are in top shape, which is great considering the length of rest they had. That shows their earnestness. I was also happy with their efforts, there was no let-up in the intensity levels. It was a short camp, but it was high on intensity,” said Prasad, who kept a close watch on his wards through the three days of nets.

Prasad said he put more stress on getting the basics right, considering that the bowlers are coming off a lengthy break. “We didn’t put too much emphasis on pace, rather we gave more importance to basics like getting the line and length right and working out a few variations. It’s not an issue, but the bowlers know their shortcomings while bowling in the death overs. So we tried out yorkers and slower ones in the camp,” he pointed out.

Ishant, who was seen getting his yorkers right on Saturday, worked up good pace during nets and Prasad pinned his hopes on the youngster to regain his wicket-taking abilities. The gangling paceman has looked out of sorts of late, but his obvious promise has kept him going. “When Ishant was new, not many batsmen knew about his bowling. But after he made an impact at the highest level, obviously people started noticing and studying him. So that makes a difference. For me, he is an exceptionally talented bowler and everyone concerned, whether the selectors or the team management, should show some patience with him,” he remarked. 

Meanwhile, the camp wound up at the NCA with the players being put through another round of nets.

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