In the backdrop of India's sixth successive overseas loss in a Test series, the bowling unit has continued to draw flak for inconsistent performances. After the recent 2-0 defeat in Australia, where India conceded totals in excess of 500 in the first innings of all four Tests, former captain Rahul Dravid said the richest cricketing nation in the world is poor in terms of world-class bowling resources.
Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar has asked for a fresh set of bowlers to be selected while former leg-spinner Anil Kumble felt it was important for the BCCI to assess bowlers every season. But Dravid feels the "cupboard in the bowling department was bare", with no outstanding performers in Ranji Trophy.
"I follow Ranji Trophy cricket and cricket in India, and there's not a lot of talent. The cupboard, unfortunately in the bowling department, is not as well stocked as we would like it to be," Dravid told ESPNcricinfo. (Flat Sydney Track Stuns Kohli, Smith)
India, after repeated poor results in overseas Test matches, slipped to No. 7 in the ICC rankings. While the batsmen, led by Virat Kohli (692 runs), Ajinkya Rahane (399) and Murali Vijay (482), did admirably, the bowlers were found wanting. Mohammed Shami was India's best with 15 wickets from four Tests but lacked support. Dravid said unless India managed to shore up their bowling resources, the overseas embarrassment will be impossible to stop. (Australia Fail to Tame Kohli | Want to Win Like You, Kohli Tells Ganguly)
"The bowling has been a big let-down, and I think if you are not consistently bowling well, if you don't have world-class bowlers in both pace and spin, then you're going to slide down the rankings because you're not going to produce results," said Dravid. (India a Threat to Tri-Series & World Cup: Hussey)
However, Dravid is not willing to lose hope and unlike Gavaskar, he still thinks there is time for the current crop of Indian bowlers to show some improvement. Dravid felt an outstanding bowler could soon emerge over the next few months and the likes of Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron, who had created a stir with their pace before disappointing, could be potent and dangerous in the years to come.
"Hopefully it can change and things like this can change in six months, eight months, sometimes you can find a young, exciting fast bowler somewhere or a super spinner somewhere, that happens. But the reality is that we were all excited, before the Australia tour. We had got 2-3 guys, Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron, all bowling 140-plus; there's always Ishant Sharma; Bhuvi (Bhuvneshwar Kumar) has come along a long way.
"So I'm not saying that these guys are finished. There are clearly lessons that they need to learn, areas that they need to work on. You could have the same set of bowlers, but if they improve and get better, I think that's the ideal situation, because when I look around the place, I don't necessarily see many bowlers shouting out or banging the door open at the moment to say, look, pick me, I will do the job for you in Test cricket." (Kohli Wants Indian Bowlers to Improve)
But the reality has been depressing for Indian cricket. The bowlers could be excused for their ordinary spells on flat pitches in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney but barring Bhuvneshwar, they remained as ineffective in England, which provides ideal conditions for swing and seam movement. They were also unable to make an impression on the bouncy pitches in South Africa and New Zealand.
The bowling had also been a letdown for Mahendra Singh Dhoni in foreign conditions, often forcing him to adopt defensive tactics way too early. Newly appointed Test captain Virat Kohli has backed his bowlers and said critics are often too harsh on them. But can he back them up for long? One of his own spinners, Ravichandran Ashwin, had expressed frustration at the lack of support from the other end on the penultimate day of the SCG Test. Now, legends like Gavaskar, Kumble and Dravid have spoken out about their disappointment with the Indian attack.
Irrespective of what the team management has to say, a few bowlers in the Indian dressing room would have realized that time is running out for them. Perform or perish!