x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Venkatesh Prasad: 'These are exciting times'

The India bowling coach, and former fast bowler, lauds the pacemen in the team.

Venkatesh Prasad, right, the India bowling coach, took 96 wickets in 33 test matches, as a player.
Venkatesh Prasad, right, the India bowling coach, took 96 wickets in 33 test matches, as a player.

The memory of a disastrous English summer in which the thinness of India's pace bowling resources became painfully apparent may fade away entirely by the time the new year begins.

That, at least, is the assessment of Venkatesh Prasad, the former fast bowler and bowling coach, who believes the emergence of some fresh, genuinely quick pacemen boosts India's prospects on their tour of Australia from December immeasurably.

Since their winless England tour, India have begun to piece back some of the coherence that defined their rise before the series.

They blanked England in a one-day international series and beat the West Indies, although both with less ease than scorelines suggest.

More importantly, the contests gave them an opportunity to blood some new fast men, such as Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron. Both, as Prasad points out, along with Abhimanyu Mithun, are genuine prospects.

"These are some exciting times as far as Indian fast bowling is concerned," he said.

"There are a couple of bowlers who hit 145-148kph and they do it in India, so in Australia they will get much more help.

"What I have seen of Yadav and Aaron is that they are positive, they run in quick, hit the crease hard and hit the deck hard.

"Mithun's attitude towards nets and training is awesome. As they get more experience they will become confident and consistent."

Though India have not struggled to produce fast bowlers in recent years, few have managed to kick on after early, impressive entries.

In England, this failure shone through; once Zaheer Khan got injured, India lacked bite, though in Sreesanth and eventually RP Singh, they should have had experienced Test hands.

Prasad was India's bowling coach between 2007 and 2009 and a successful one too, though he later publicly worried about the drive of some bowlers he worked with.

That, he believes, is something that will have to be managed carefully even now.

"You don't need to wrap them in cotton wool because they are quick," he said. "No way. You need to give them as much exposure and experience as possible.

"They need to be monitoring their workloads as much as possible in net sessions especially. It's important to spend time in the gym for the physical aspect but they forget the bowling time.

"They spend time in the gym to be strong on the field, but what they forget is to bowl, to get a number overs under their belt. They are physically fit but not bowling fit. There should be a good balance between physical fitness and bowling fitness."

Prasad believes the mere presence of Zaheer will play "a huge role, huge" in the development of these bowlers.

"Even if he doesn't get it right in bowling, the amount of positive energy and experience he shares cannot be matched," Prasad said.

"He brings new ideas, gives the bowlers a lot of confidence. To have Zaheer at mid-on or mid-off is terrific for them, their confidence doubles up. Even if half-fit I would play him."

India have yet to win a Test series in Australia and though this clash may not be as high-voltage as battles in recent years, against a transitional side, it represents their best chance to change that.

Prasad, who is in the UAE to work with the national side ahead of the World T20 qualifiers, is in no doubt.

"Definitely, India can win, should win, considering their batting," he said. "They should be making a minimum of 300-400 runs every innings. That gives leverage to bowl freely, to have their own fields, to experiment a bit, but they can do it."

osamiuddin@thenational.ae