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Straight Drive
India's Lack Of All-Rounders

By Chandresh Narayanan

Sept. 17th, 2009
India's biggest problem at the upcoming ICC Champions Trophy is going to be the lack of seam bowling all-rounders. The Indian team lacks one solid seam bowler who can bat as well especially on the fresh South African pitches.

Every other team in the competition has one atleast. But India have chosen a flawed team with no attention paid to this problem.

The problem lies elsewhere with the selectors not paying attention to it in the first place.

Admittedly the likely contenders for this seam bowling all-rounder are not too many, but then there is no harm looking at them. Irfan Pathan has fallen from grace. He does not command the same respect as a bowler in a one-dayer anymore, even though just over a year ago he won India a Test at Perth.

He played as fifth bowler cum batsman there and played a huge part in tilting the balance in India's favour there.

Then you have the chosen one Abhisek Nayar. Now the problem is that the well-spoken Mumbai lad is neither a specialist batsman nor a specialist bowler. He cannot hold his own in either of the departments. So you will find that the skipper has not faith in his ability. It showed in the way the skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni did not give him a bowl in the two one-dayers that he was chosen in on the West Indies tour.

Praveen Kumar is the other candidate who is in the XV, but does not have the pace to back his claims atleast in the subcontinent. But in South Africa he should be chosen ahead of a RP Singh to boost the batting. It is surprising the same Praveen gets to open for his state side Uttar Pradesh, but does not rank high when it comes to his batting.

In India there is suddenly a paucity of seam bowlers who can bat. Rewind to the 1980s and there were a surfeit of them. Kapil Dev, Madan Lal, Roger Binny, Manoj Prabhakar, Bharat Arun, Mohinder Amarnath et al. They all were not in the same class as the great Kapil, but they all could bat. Infact during the 1985 World Championship of Cricket, skipper Sunil Gavaskar had a line-up which could even call the No 11 to score runs.

But times have changed. India now has a number of spin bowling all-rounders. This is perhaps dictated by the change in pitches in the country. The pitches are getting flatter by the day and the spinners have to be called in to stem the rot. The seam bowlers just do not have anything to fall back on.

So now you have a Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Yusuf Pathan and even a Suresh Raina. We are not even counting Sachin Tendulkar, who cannot bowl anymore. Overall it is an interesting time for the Indian ODI team which looks to stay on the top.

But they have to remember one thing, the best ODI teams in the world always had some top quality seam-bowling all-rounders, with the West Indies team being an exception.

Take Australia for example: Mitchell Johnson can bat, Shane Watson opens the batting and so does James Hopes. South Africa have the Alibe Morkel, Jacques Kallis. Dark horses New Zealand have Jacob Oram, Ian Butler, Jesse Ryder, Brendon Damianti, Grant Elliott to bowl a few tight overs and also bat with purpose. Then the Sri Lankans have Thilan Thushara and Angelo Matthews. England despite all its problems have someone like Stuart Broad to fall back on.

Maybe, India cannot have anything. They have a fantastic opening pair, a great middle-order, cool captain, a young inspiring fast bowler and a fiery spinner. The all-rounder maybe will have to wait a little longer to come in.

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