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May 5, 1999

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Bowling options aplenty for India


The World Cup is just two weeks away and, with all the participating teams already in England, the tempo has started building up. All the teams are trying their best to get familiar with the conditions and also get some good net practice. But one important aspect of game preparations is chalk board strategies or, in these high-tech days, laptop strategies. I hope the Indian think tank (Azhar, Anshu, Sachin, Ajay, Anil ) are spending enough time on this.

India has good chance to go all the way up if their bowlers click. I would say that the best pair to open the Indian bowling attack is Javagal Srinath and Ajit Agarkar, and not Prasad. As we have seen in recent tournaments, Agarkar is a bowler in the aggressive mould. Though he got 50 wickets in one-dayers in a record-breaking number of matches, one can't ignore the number of runs he has conceded per over while taking those wickets. At the start of any innings, the best way is to attack the batsmen and try to get quick breakthorughs. For that, Ajit is my man!

Srinath is now cosidered as one of the best quickies in the business. Also with a number of countries having a left-hander in the opening slot (out of 12, 7 have a left hand opener), Srinath can give them lots of problems with his natural inswingers, which are out-swingers for a left-hander.

India is fortunate enough to have a bowler of Prasad's caliber as first change bowler. There are a couple of reasons why I suggested that Prasad should not open the bowling. He's more experienced as well as more accurate than Ajit. Let's say the frontline bowlers take a couple of quick wickets in the first 8/9 overs. Then, usually the batting side waits till the first bowling change and then starts opening up. Prasad, with his accuracy, great outswingers and slower ball, can keep the batsmen under pressure. Also, in case the batsmen are on song, Prasad is a veteran and knows how to handle such situations. The recent Sharjah tournament final cleary showed Agarkar's inexperience while Ijaz/ Inzy milked him for runs, after Srinath/ Prasad failed to make any impression on the openers.

Looking at Mohammad Azharuddin's predictable captaincy, India's second bowling change is going to be Anil Kumble. This is where the Indian think tank should take their chances. Instead of Kumble, they should either give Saurav Ganguly or Robin Singh a chance to use the helpful swing conditions early in the innings. We haven't seen Ganguly bowling 6/7 overs during an innings. Let's hope he bowls long spells in the nets. With that nagging accuracy, he could very well be the Mohinder Amarnath of the 1983 team. One hopes he had a good talk with Jimmy during the '83 versus '99 match.

Indeed, if Saurav and Robin can pitch in some good overs before the 20-over mark of the innings, then India can preserve Anil and Prasad for the death overs, during which Srinath does not have much variety. So, Agarkar may be a safe bet along with Prasad and Anil for the final 10.

Of course, you can't forget Sachin, who can bowl according to the conditions. He can bowl leg spin, off spin and slow medium pace. And Ajay Jadeja, who may be riding high with confidence following his bowling performances in Sharjah.

One of the assuring things that happened in Sharajh, and was largely ignored, was the ability of the Indian bolwers to successfully defend low scores, or run thourgh the opposition, which they did in three out of five matches. History shows that in 1983 India ran through the opposition in most of the matches.

Thus, India's success depends equally on their bowling as well as their batting. So, with conditions to their liking, and five out of eight bowling options, India can really swing the fortunes in their favour with their inswingers and outswingers.

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