Where are the bowlers for the WI tour?

It’s been 115 days since the selectors last sat down to pick India’s national team. In between, the team has graduated from being a very good team to world champions. It’s been a great journey and very rewarding as well, but with the title comes the responsibility of playing the part as well.

With a lot of seniors still not confirming their availability for the upcoming tour of the West Indies which begins on June 4, the five wise men led by Kris Srikkanth won’t have an easy job on their hands when they meet on 13 May.

Virender Sehwag’s definitely going to be missing so that’s at least one important slot that will need to be filled. Ashish Nehra has been missing in action as well, so that’s number two. Then there is the fatigue factor – after playing the World Cup and the IPL, players will be dead tired and you don't want to push them to breaking point.

 Where are the bowlers for the WI tour?

Ishant Sharma is still not at his best. AFP/Noah Seelam

The big problem, however, for the selectors is that the Ranji season ended in January and three months have passed since then. So how do they judge a player's form? Do they just trust their instinct or do they give a lot of weightage to performances in the Indian Premier League?

If it does indeed come down to the IPL, Srikkanth and Co. will definitely have a look at the top run-getters and wicket-takers. So here's the math that will soon come under the scope:

If you leave out the usual suspects, the best Indian batsman on view has been Ambati Rayudu. He doesn’t slog, is very correct and has managed to score 362 runs at an average of 36.20 for the Mumbai Indians.

Many of the runs have been scored in the company of Sachin Tendulkar and it surely helps when the master batsman has a good opinion of you because he is one man that even the selectors can’t refuse.

Other than Rayudu, Paul Valthaty has been very good as well. He’s scored 359 runs at 39.88 for Kings XI Punjab. But his complete lack of first-class cricket will count against him.

Subramanium Badrinath has staged a renaissance of sorts this year. After giving way to the younger lot, the Tamil Nadu veteran (yes, we’ll call him that) seems to have finally found his groove this year – 294 runs at 98.00 is ample proof of that.

Venugopal Rao (290 at 29.00), Rohit Sharma (287 at 47.83) and Manoj Tiwary (277 at 69.25) have all done well enough to be given a serious look-in. In reality, plain statistics won’t be enough to separate them. The decision will probably come down to who really managed to catch the selectors’ eye.

While things on the batting front seem fairly pleasant, the bowling will be a bit of a worry. Granted that this is a tournament programmed to be tough on the bowlers, but this years edition has thrown up precious few newcomers. While Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh are certainties, they are enough positions that can be grabbed here.

Rahul Sharma of the Pune Warriors has stood out with his haul of 17 wickets at an average of 15.35. Even more impressive has been his economy rate, which at 5.24 is simply splendid. The tall, lanky leg-spinner can extract good bounce from almost any surface and may be the perfect replacement for Piyush Chawla.

Iqbal Abdulla of the Kolkata Knight Riders has been pretty impressive as well. He tends to open the bowling a lot for KKR and in essence that is the most dangerous time for a T20 bowler. The left-arm orthodox spinner has 13 scalps at 17.38. His economy of 6.10 is impressive as well.

But while the spinners have done fairly well for themselves, Indians medium-pacers have disappointed. This was the one area that outgoing coach Gary Kirsten had been worried about and it seems Duncan Fletcher will have his hands full as well.

Vinay Kumar with 12 wickets has been the most impressive in terms of average but the Indian team management hasn’t shown a lot of confidence in him in the past. Ishant Sharma seems to be improving with every game but is even now, nowhere close to his best. He’s got nine wickets at 29.44. But his haul pales in comparison to the likes of Lasith Malinga (26 wickets at 9.61) and even Munaf Patel (17 wickets at 14.35).

The rest of the gang is lagging even further behind -- Praveen Kumar (9 at 30.66), RP Singh (7 at 38.42), Irfan Pathan (7 at 39.62) and L Balaji (7 at 41.00) have really struggled. There are opportunities aplenty in the bowling department but the lack of quality options is going to be a tough one for the selectors to tackle. That, and the withdrawals.

P.S. You’ve all been watching the IPL and seeing the players in action. So write in and let us know who you feel the selectors should pick for the Indian squad that will tour West Indies.

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Updated Date: May 11, 2011 12:41:19 IST