India's pace stable wears thin look

Patel’s call-up is much precautionary as anything else, what with Ishant Sharma just recovering from an ankle injury and some questions over Ashish Nehra’s complete fitness. His cause was further helped by some of the other fringe contenders, notably Ashoke Dinda and R Vinay Kumar, playing in the Emerging Players’ tournament in Australia.

Patel last played a one-day international in November last year. With 47 wickets from 43 games and an economy of 4.88, he is hardly in the ‘match-winning’ category, and must count himself somewhat fortunate to benefit from favourable circumstances.

Perhaps, in helpful conditions, he will make an impression should he play at some stage in the next fortnight, but whether he figures prominently in the World Cup scheme of things is another matter.

A slew of young medium-pacers – prominent among them left-armers Rudra Pratap Singh and Irfan Pathan – have fallen by the wayside as India’s quest for a settled fast bowling combination continues. Ashish Nehra and Praveen Kumar have established themselves as the obvious favourites to partner Zaheer Khan at the World Cup, provided all three are free from injuries. The chasing pack is a burgeoning list, including the likes of Ishant Sharma, S Sreesanth, Abhimanyu Mithun, Dinda, Vinay and now Patel, too.

Disturbingly, few of these can be relied upon to make handy contributions with the bat. Praveen has had a few notable knocks in the recent past, while Zaheer’s best days as a batsman in the limited-overs game are clearly behind him. Of the rest, Vinay has the best batting credentials and Mithun has shown that he can both stonewall and smash the bowling around.

Not too many in this list are the most sprightly in the park as well. In this highly competitive era, it is essential that every player has more than one outstanding string in his bow. It’s difficult to look beyond a couple of names that can hold its own in the field under pressure.

The hunt for a settled, regular set of quicks has gone on for far too long, as Gary Kirsten acknowledged. “In the time that I have been with the team (from March 2008), we have tried 15 or 16 seamers in one-day cricket,” the Indian coach conceded. “We need to settle on the few we feel can go through. We need to see if the guys are ready to step up to the plate. A lot of them might argue that they haven’t been given enough opportunities but when you are trying to achieve results all the time, sometimes you get only limited opportunities and you’ve got to ensure that you show what you are capable of in that time.”

Especially on what are expected to be flat tracks during the World Cup, there is no substitute for the variety that is a positive fall-out of experience. India have some work ahead of them as they strive to be prepared for all eventualities.

DH Newsletter Privacy Policy Get the top news in your inbox
Comments (+)