Mumbai: Fast bowlers are like 350-cc motorcycles. They need to be oiled or nurtured for consistent performance. They need to ply on the right roads. If taken to a dirt track without apt wheels, they will collapse and will struggle to recover.
James Anderson, who took 21 wickets in the recently concluded Tests against India, was taken to the cleaners during England's infamous whitewash in the 2006-07 Ashes. The same Anderson, who struggled to make the Lancashire XI then, was eager to turn out for his county side just two days after a Test against Sri Lanka recently. That's because the wiser Anderson realises the need to keep the engine in sound shape.
Many applauded the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for 'resting' key fast bowlers Zaheer Khan and S Sreesanth for the tour of West Indies. But former India fast bowlers Javagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad were unsure if the decision would backfire. Zaheer and Sreesanth, who hit rhythm in South Africa (January), had no further exposure to the longer format until three days before the Lord's Test on July 21.
"Fast bowlers need to keep bowling, whether it is first-class or Test cricket. There's no point in resting them exceedingly," Prasad, who took 15 wickets during the 1996 tour of England, told MiD DAY. "The key is to remain fit, keep bowling, and keep up that urge," he added.
Change in mindset
Srinath called for a cultural change in the mindset of young fast bowlers. "Guys like Sreesanth and Ishant need to bowl at least 1200 overs a year with at least 500 or 600 of them in county cricket in England, Australia and other first-class matches. Both are quality bowlers and there's no reason to believe they are not as good as English bowlers. There aren't any technical flaws in them either. They must want to keep bowling which is the only way to play at the highest level for 10-12 years. England ensure that even their senior bowlers go back and play county cricket between Tests. Our bowlers need to embrace that culture," he said.
"All these guys need to be treated differently. Someone like Zaheer can bowl just 300 overs in a year and can still turn out all guns blazing. On the other hand, someone like Sreesanth can't do that. There's no point playing ODIs and IPL (in India), and then going on a Test tour to England. It's unfair to blame the bowlers alone," added Srinath, who headed to Dubai on Thursday evening to participate in the ICC conference for umpires and match referees.
Both Karnataka pacers were of the opinion that BCCI must come up with a way of shortlisting the best young fast bowlers in the country. "Pick these guys and send them to play lots of cricket in England and Australia.
They will learn about their own bodies and will know how to stay fit. It's high time this happens," concluded Srinath.
Pacers' first-class exposure from July 25-August 25:
Tim Bresnan - 3725 balls
Stuart Broad - 4083 balls
James Anderson - 5677 balls
Zaheer Khan - 1540 balls
Ishant Sharma - 2808 balls
S Sreesanth - 2358 balls