England vs India 2nd Test Preview: Can the Indian Bowling Step Up?
With the second test between India and England underway tomorrow, the biggest worry for India would be their bowling line-up. It was good in patches but listless most of the time at Lord’s in the 1st test. India sorely missed the services of Zaheer Khan who is not only one of the best bowlers in world but also plays an important role in the success of his fellow bowlers through the support and confidence he generates for them, the kind of bowler who specialises in playing with the mind of the batsman. But in all likelihood, Zaheer is not going to play at Trent Bridge which is a big blow to the Indian side which is already missing its premier opening batsman. India’s No.1 test ranking is at stake and the biggest question is whether the bowlers, who were the main culprits in the last test, can rise to the occasion.
First things first, India should choose a suitable replacement for Zaheer Khan. India have two options to choose from- Munaf Patel and Sreesanth. Munaf has bowled impressively of late in the shorter versions of the game. But it is Sreesanth who can be more than handy in conditions like those in England. His ability to swing the ball at high speeds could come to India’s aid in the English wicket. A genuine wicket taker and an explosive bowler who is unstoppable once he settles in his groove, Sreesanth is a force to be reckoned with, despite his temperamental issues.
Praveen Kumar relies heavily on swing. If there is little swing, he can be highly ineffective. At his best when bowling with the new ball, Praveen bowls medium pace. Sometimes his medium pace makes it easy for batsmen to counter his swing, but he still understands his strengths and weaknesses and has to bowl optimally if he is to help India stage a comeback in the series.
In Harbhajan Singh, India has a genuine wicket taking bowler. The caveat is that he was completely off-colour at Lord’s. He either bowled too slow or failed to flight the ball enough, but clearly ended up second best to Graeme Swann in the battle of the spinners, rarely threatening the English batsmen. Match figures of 218-1 do not do justice to the bowler who recently took his 400th wicket. India badly needs a rejuvenated Harbhajan back at his best.
In the Indian bowling line-up, if there is one bowler who can change the complexion of any match in a matter of one spell, it is Ishant Sharma. After bowling awfully in the first innings at Lord’s, he came back strongly in the second innings to get the wickets of Pietersen, Bell, Trott and Morgan; all top- order batsmen. It is this ability to bounce back and trouble top order batsmen that makes Ishant Sharma stand out. His figures at the end of his second spell on the 4th day morning read 5-3-4-3. He is a confidence and a rhythm bowler and when he is on song, he can make any top order batsman look like a club cricketer. Indian fortunes in the second test will depend on how well Ishant bowls.
While it is hard to choose between the batting line-ups of the two teams, it is clearly the bowling that separates England and India. England have a more settled bowling line-up. Their every bowler looked completely in control and looked likes taking wickets all the time. Trent Bridge is a pitch that will offer plenty of bounce and swing. India should go for the right combination to extract optimal results out of the conditions. The pundits and experts have already declared England as the best test team in the world after the trouncing they gave India. While it is too early to say that the writing is on the wall for India, the Trent Bridge test will be a great opportunity for India to prove their numero uno status. For this to happen, it is the bowlers of the team who have to set it up.