India’s cock up of a Test series in England has proven many things, many nasty things, but without a doubt the most prevalent is that India are totally disorganised and have no answer to stem the hammering being dished out to them by England.
Praveen Kumar, India’s best bowler of the series, pulled out of the Test at the last minute because of a foot injury. Now although Kumar has been India’s best bowler, he has done so in a series which has been so completely one-sided I can see Khulubuse Zuma playing see-saw with Baby Jake when I close my eyes. Kumar is the best bowler of a team being schmangled – much like Heath Streak was for his entire career. In fact Kumar boasts the only average under 30 of any Indian bowler – 15 wickets this series at a respectable 29.53. Around three times more than the 21 wickets at 11.95 of Stuart Broad. Where the wheels really fall off, though, is when you examine the staggeringly average figures of the rest of India’s attack. The alleged spearhead of Ishant Sharma has a series average of 56 and a strike rate higher than most speed limits. Sreesanth’s bowling average is unsatisfactory for someone who plays this sport as a form of employment. And Amit Mishra? The poor oke was thrown in at the deep end in conditions which don’t suit him against a powerful batting line up which had thrashed India’s bowlers around the park with all the effort of drinking a cold rum on a hot day.
If Praveen Kumar has taught us anything, this series, what is it? Accuracy. Indeed. It’s not really a secret in cricket that pressure delivers results. Kumar gets the ball to nip both ways and has plugged away at a length, with results. His peers have sprayed the ball like they want to hurt every little part of the ground. If I was MS Dhoni’s poor back I’d come back to haunt India’s bowlers, as I would be dead by now. Kumar’s consistency is the only admirable feature of India’s performance in the field this tour, so one could understand the raised eyebrows at the selection of RP Singh over Munaf Patel. RP Singh hasn’t played competitively for India since 2008, and hasn’t played anything that wasn’t limited overs since January. Unsurprisingly, he bowled with the speed and accuracy of a camel in a hurricane. Munaf Patel would have been the logical choice to replace Kumar. The ball was swinging and moving about yesterday and his consistency could have made all the difference – much like Praveen Kumar has showed us. That being said, if RP Singh and Munaf are competing for a place, any faith placed in the depth of Indian fast bowling might be misplaced.
The persistence with Mishra is surprising in light of the success left-arm spinners have had against England, Kevin Pietersen in particular. This makes it a mystery to leave Pragyan Ohja warming the bench. While Ohja isn’t going to scythe his way through a batting order, he can stem run-flow, and that would be the first tactic in dealing with the gargantuan scores England have rattled up in the last few weeks (Alastair Cook scored more in the last Test than the entire Indian batting order has made in one innings so far). As Praveen Kumar showed us, steady has produced results in this series.
The commentators yesterday passed comment about whether Suresh Raina, whose form is about as convincing as an ANC Youth League economic dossier, should have been dropped for Virat Kohli, India’s stand-out player of recent times. Nonsense. Raina needs time at the crease to scrape some sort of form together while Kohli needs game time – as much as possible – to prepare him as one of India’s future stars. Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman don’t need to play in a dead rubber. The trio has 462 Tests and over a hundred collective years between them, for heaven’s sake. Kohli has three Tests and Raina has 14.
India’s selection has shown us they aren’t preparing for the future, and have no answer to England.
Quite frankly, I’d be building a shrine to Gary Kirsten.