x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Lack of bowlers is hurting IPL legacy

If you are a bowler - Lasith Malinga with his slingshots is the lone exception - May 28 cannot come soon enough. Six weeks of being glorified extras must be soul-destroying.

Three weeks on from the final of the 50-over World Cup and it is business as usual in the Indian Premier League (IPL).

With most matches played on tired, end-of-season pitches that have as much life as a 3,000-year-old mummy, some ridiculous scores have been racked up, most notably in the match between the Delhi Daredevils and Kings XI Punjab on Saturday.

If you are a bowler - Lasith Malinga with his slingshots is the lone exception - May 28 cannot come soon enough. Six weeks of being glorified extras must be soul-destroying.

When the IPL began in 2008, one of its stated aims was to widen and deepen India's talent pool, to create a pool strength that would be the envy of other nations. It has not quite worked out that way.

Some will point to the batting riches unearthed, but that was the case even in the old days of the Ranji Trophy and other domestic games that no one bothered to watch.

Where are the bowlers? Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh are on the wrong side of 30, but there has been no one else making a case to be indispensable in every form of the game.

RP Singh made it to the Honours Board after a Test against England at Lord's in 2007, but has not done much since, while those who can recall Irfan Pathan's bowling from 2004/05 wince when they see him in action now.

Sreesanth is an expensive liability in limited-overs cricket, while too much exposure to that sort of cricket dulled Ishant Sharma's edge before he was even 21.

Praveen Kumar can take wickets when the white ball is new, but becomes cannon fodder once it goes soft.

There have been few silver linings on the spin front either. Pragyan Ojha is worth another go in the Caribbean in June, but the likes of Iqbal Abdulla and Ali Murtaza aim to restrict rather than take wickets.

In that respect, one man worth trying out again might be Amit Mishra, an old-style leg-spin bowler who just needs to be a bit quicker through the air at times.

It can be taken for granted that several senior players will give the West Indies tour, or parts of it, a miss.

With the unofficial Test World Championship to be played in England this summer and a hectic six months culminating in a tour of Australia in December and January - India have never won a Test series there - tired minds and bodies need rest.

Back when cricket itineraries were based on common sense rather than greed, April and May meant down time.

Now, they mean IPL matches in 40°C heat. And if you are a contracted Indian player, giving it a miss is not even an option.

Instead, it will be fans in the Caribbean that are cheated, having to make do with a second-string Indian side.

For those on the fringes of selection though, the trip to the West Indies represents a huge opportunity to impress.

The previously unheralded Paul Valthaty is currently disputing the orange cap for top IPL run scorer with Sachin Tendulkar, while Ambati Rayudu has played a big part in the Mumbai Indians' charge to the top of the table.

So too has Rohit Sharma, who would be a permanent fixture in any India side if his application and discipline matched his talent.

All three could make the squad and it might not be a bad idea to give another chance to Subramaniam Badrinath, a titan of the domestic scene who has not quite cracked the international game yet.

Whatever the composition of the squad chosen, the batting will be strong, regardless of whether Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and MS Dhoni are absent. You cannot say the same for the bowling.