'Playing Bhajji was a gamble'

Kirsten backs struggling Ishant

“Yes, it was a gamble, but if he hadn’t played, we would have been really inexperienced in our bowling,” said India’s coach on Sunday evening. “He is a gutsy cricketer. He just said ‘Listen, I want to play’. He is not that well at the moment. He had flu and was on bed during the warm-up game. You don’t recover fast from flu, it has taken some toll but we need him in the team.”

Not for the first time, Kirsten spoke of the Indian experiment with finding lasting pace bowling resources. “If you think about it, it’s just one bowler, Zaheer Khan, who is not here. He plays a massive role in this team and it just shows what experience means. In Indian cricket, we need to find guys who are ready to step up.

“In the last two years and seven months that I have been with the team, we have tried 15 or 16 seamers in one-day cricket. That’s a lot of options. We need to settle on the few we feel can go through. It is a concern that the guys are not saying that I am here now, I am going to play international cricket for the next five years. The opportunity sits for three-four of them. Zaheer did it for a long time, Ishant proved for a brief while that he wanted it. There is no reason why he can’t stake his claim and cement his place. You want these guys to show some consistency, you can’t give a guy a long run because you are not sure what he is capable of.”

Kirsten said Ishant Sharma needed to be handled patiently. “By his own admission, he could have avoided certain type of deliveries. But he hasn’t had much game time in the last three months. In his last Test in Kolkata, he made a crucial contribution against South Africa. We need to be patient with guys who we know have the potential and talent to go forward. We must be careful not to judge him in one practice game and one day here. We want to back him as much as we can. He has lost a bit of a confidence towards the end of the last season and that takes some time to come back.”

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