As India gear up to reverse the first Test debacle in their next game starting in Johannesburg on Saturday, the pressure is mounting on Virat Kohli and Co. to stay alive in the three-match series in South Africa.
Two former India pacers, both new-ball partners of the legendary World Cup-winning captain Kapil Dev, Raju Kulkarni and Karsan Ghavri were confident of India bouncing back in the series.
Kulkarni, a right-arm pacer from Mumbai who played in 3 Tests in 1986-87, opening the attack with Kapil in two of them, said in Mumbai on Thursday: “India will bounce back. Our batting has been failing. I feel they should have gone there early, got used to the conditions, played a few practice games.
“I heard Sourav Ganguly say that if they had allowed youngsters to play against Sri Lanka (at home in limited-overs last month), and our 7-10 main players had gone to South Africa early and played practice matches, that would have helped. I totally agree,” the 55-year-old Kulkarni said.
Ghavri, who played in 39 Tests from 1974 to 1981 and took 109 wickets, said that the batting let India down in the first Test. “We bowled extremely well in both the innings. Bowlers have done a beautiful job in the first Test match and it was only the batsman who have let us down. It is not that we batted very badly, but we batted very poorly and so that was the result,” Ghavri said.
The 66-year-old Ghavri added: “And, if we really need to improve in the second and the third Test onwards, every batsman has to take a lot of responsibility and plan out their innings, put up a lot of runs on the board and give something to your bowlers. And, if you don’t do that, then the result will be not go India’s way.”
India were rocked by South Africa’s swing bowler Vernon Philander, who claimed nine wickets in the Centurion Test last week, to go down by 72 runs. Kulkarni said that while India were focussing on the quicker bowlers in Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Kagiso Rabada, they were stung by an “intelligent Philander”, who is the slowest among the quartet.
Kulkarni, a right-arm pacer who took 232 wickets in 79 first-class wickets between 1982-83 and 1992-93, said: “Rabada and Morkel are fast bowlers. India got out to Philander. Philander bowls intelligently and swings the ball. We tend to concentrate too much on pace bowling attack like Steyn, Morkel, Rabada. In the bargain, we forget the weakest link, which is Philander. You will always find him taking wickets in these conditions.”
Fitness is something that Kulkarni is concerned about India’s current pacers. “India’s current lot of pacers are very talented. The only problem is their fitness. There is no continuity. You will always find three bowlers play one Test, may be three-four Test matches, and then there is a breakdown. They play too much cricket and that is why the breakdown happens. They have proved in the last match that given a pitch like that, they can rip apart any team,” said Kulkarni, taking stock of India’s fast bowling unit.
He was also unhappy with India’s most experienced pacer currently, Ishant Sharma, who despite playing 79 Tests and with 226 wickets in more than a decade, is still not sure of a place in the starting 11. “Ishant has never led from the front. That is a problem. He is too erratic, every time he comes with a new technique, a new strategy. That is why he is not consistent. That is itself very confusing for him. In the last couple of series, he has been acting very stupidly, reacting to situations.”
Kulkarni, regarded as a genuine quick bowler in his playing days, said pace was something natural that the bowlers had. “Pace is very natural. If used badly, it would affect the bowlers. Kapil used to say ‘don’t make me bowl too many bouncers. Otherwise, I will lose my out-swingers. Imran Khan (former Pakistan captain) used to say that pace bowling, action, release of the ball and wrist position are all god-gift. ‘You can only correct them. They cannot be adopted’.”
Kulkarni, who admitted that he took up fast bowling after the confidence given by Kapil and Ghavri that fast bowlers had a future in India, said that the former India captain was “not a good teacher”.
Asked what it meant to him to be sharing the new ball with Kapil and what he learnt from him. Kulkarni, who also played in 10 ODIs for 10 wickets, said: “Kapil was a great cricketer, no doubt. His only thing was he could show us what he can do with the ball but could not tell us how to do. That was the problem also with Ramakant Desai (former India and Mumbai pacer). He would say ‘bowl out-swingers like this’, but not show us where we were going wrong. That is always the case with natural cricketers. Perhaps that’s why great cricketers are not good teachers.”
Source: Google Sports