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Indian pacers face testing time

Ashish Shukla in Dambulla | July 28, 2005 18:07 IST

It is a moment of reckoning for the quartet of Indian fast bowlers in Sri Lanka who are reasonably unsettled even after being around for the last few years.

Neither Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Irfan Pathan nor Laxmipathy Balaji can help looking over their shoulders as they face hostile conditions and limited opportunities, not to speak of the competition which has built up back home.

Only three or sometime even two of them will man India's medium-pace attack in Sri Lanka and must quickly come to terms with slow pitches and marauding Sri Lankan batsmen.

Zaheer, it is said, has got over his fitness and technical issues but he still has to show it is for real on the field. Nehra just about made it to the cut-off list after new coach Greg Chappell lost little opportunity in conveying he wasn't fully fit.

Pathan has to show that he has rediscovered his in-duckers to right-handers and Balaji, after the mauling he got at the hands of the Pakistanis early this year, would be trying to avoid giving width to batsmen.

None of them played in every single Test or one-dayer in the past season. India played 11 Tests and 18 one-day internationals last season and Zaheer Khan featured in 9 matches in each format of the game; Balaji in three Tests and 8 one-day internationals; Pathan in 8 Tests and 10 one-dayers while Nehra figured in 11 one-day internationals and no Test at all!

In the camp, a few youngsters were noticed. Shree Santh of Kerala was extremely quick and fast; Uttar Pradesh youngster left-armer Rudra Pratap Singh is an exciting talent and Ranadeb Bose of Bengal impressed. Indian cricketers, presently in Sri Lanka, are also praising the bounce Munaf Patel managed.

Chappell in order to gain support in his mission, asked Dennis Lillee to come over to the camp and has brought over his old associate Ian Frazer to Sri Lanka to help out the fast bowlers.

Frazer has gone about giving individual attention to bowlers. Pathan was discovered to be not taking his front foot across at the point of delivery which affected his ability to bowl inswinging deliveries.

After working with Frazer for 45 minutes, he was seen bowling from a shorter run-up and trying to bring his front foot as much across as possible at the point of delivery.

Bowlers have been told the different lengths which are required to bowl on the off, middle or leg-stump.

On the off-stump, for example, it needs to be pitched up at 65:35 ratio. Middle stump line is to be desisted if a particular batsman is inclined to make room towards leg-stump. A leg-stump line is considered bad line as batsmen are least uncomfortable in this region.

Fast bowlers, from now on, will be shown video footage about the line they have bowled in a match. What must increase their anxiety is Chappell's belief that bowlers with ability to bounce from close range have better chance of success.

Steve Harmison and Glenn McGrath have been cited as two prime examples of what tall bowlers with extra zip and bounce can do to a batting line-up. None of the present Indian fast bowlers could be said to possess such ability.

Indian fast bowlers have traditionally been skiddy, swinging and seaming type of trundlers. Express pace is not their forte, nor the ability to bounce batsmen their strong point.

With such shift in focus, it will come as no surprise if the Indian fast bowling quartet could feel a little rushed in Sri Lanka. They need to retain their wit and do something special to keep their coach's faith in them going.


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