Though India were thrashed 4-0 in their last tour to England, former captain Kapil Dev is of the opinion that if the current set of batsmen delivers big, the bowling attack, even sans Zaheer Khan, was capable of complementing them in the five-Test series starting on July 9.
“This team looks much stronger, but it’s not going to be easy. Let anybody say whatever they want to say. It’s going to be tough. If the batsmen survive (bat well) this time, our bowlers would do much better and I have a little more hope if (off-spinner Ravichandran) Ashwin or (left-arm spinner Ravindra) Jadeja come back (to form) and start bowling well outside India,” the former all-rounder said on Tuesday.
The 1983 World Cup-winning skipper exuded confidence in the abilities of pacers Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami
to use the favourable conditions for seam bowling in England and said the attack would become more potent if lanky speedster Ishant Sharma performed well as the pace spearhead.
“I believe in the bowling and not worried about it. Bhuvaneshwar is a seam bowler and these are ideal conditions and so is the case with Shami too. Ishant is the head of the pack and I still believe if he comes out good I have a lot of confidence in the other two.”
Kapil, who would be a commentator on Star Sports channel for the first three Tests, rued the absence of a genuine pace bowling all-rounder in the team and did not think that Stuart Binny fits the bill at the moment.
“Had there been one good all-rounder it would have been a different story altogether – If he can bowl 20 overs in a day and bat at no. 7 or 6. Stuart Binny has to come a long way to get into the team. He does not give the impression he can bowl 20 overs in a day. If he can manage that then he would look totally different,” the legendary cricketer said.
“He’s a brilliant fielder but I have a doubt whether he can bowl 20 overs. Let’s be critical when we are required to be critical. All of them are four over bowlers basically. I have not seen them bowling 20-30 overs, that’s where I have a doubt, a reservation in my mind. But let us give the benefit of the doubt to these boys.”
Kapil wanted the Indian bowlers to stick to a fuller length and not bowl short like they did in New Zealand earlier this year.
“In the New Zealand series, we did not get the result and that was disheartening. We need a good seamer or a senior player to show the way. You have to bowl up, make the bowler play straight, not use the cut shot. In England you don’t need to seam the ball half a yard, (need) just six or four inches, and you’re in trouble (as a batsman),” he said.
“In New Zealand they were bowling short and that cost us the results. You can’t keep bowling short. The harder/ bouncier the pitch, you have to bowl half yard more up to the batsman.”
Kapil singled out Cheteshwar Pujara as the man the Indian team would be looking forward to hold one end up in the series that commences at Trent Bridge, Nottingham, and compared the Saurashtra batsman with yesteryear stalwarts Rahul Dravid and Ravi Shastri.
“Pujara is ideal to play five-day cricket. If he plays well, the result can come out better in India’s favour. Pujara can play whole day, he has that temperament. Pujara can hold the wicket. I am not saying (Virat) Kohli is any less, but Pujara is the key player for me.
“In a couple of years he can play ODIs or T20s, but today he is your backbone (in Tests). He is the cricketer who can put his shutter down like Rahul Dravid and say I like to bat the whole day.
“In our time people used to say haai haai to Ravi Shastri, but we used to say Ravi you keep blocking. I told Ravi to occupy one end, play the whole day, don’t score runs but play 40 overs against West Indies so that others can come and score.
“Such players might not get more runs, but they stay. Pujara is not Shikhar Dhawan or Sehwag, but we need players who can play out the day,” he explained.
He also welcomed the five-Test series – the first for India in England since 1959 – and wished he should have been playing now, and hailed the appointment of Dravid as an advisor to the Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led team in the run-up to the Test rubber.
“It’s fantastic. This is the real test of cricket I wish I was playing the five-Test series there.
“I think his (Dravid) experience will help a lot. If the boys are ready to listen I am sure it will help them. He is such a sorted person that it is bound to help the batsmen as long as they are ready to listen. He could have come in for a longer period (Dravid will be with team till start of first Test), but it depends on his choice.
“If they ask me (for advisor’s role) I cannot, I might have told them for a few weeks. Dravid, too, has retired and he has a family. But, it’s good that he is trying to do some good for the young team,” the veteran of 131 Tests stated.
Though England captain Alastair Cook is not in the best of form, Kapil is wary of the 29-year-old opener and see him as India’s biggest threat.
“I consider Cook as our biggest threat. He is not in good form, but it often happens to India that a player who is not in form comes to form, when they play against India. If we can handle Cook and (Ian) Bell, India will be fine.”
He also praised England’s bowling attack and said swing bowler Jimmy Anderson was the key to their success.
“England’s bowling is much harder. Anderson is key. In England you feel, it will be him that will make the difference between the two teams.”
The former skipper saw the long series as a major challenge for the Indian players.
“The biggest test for any cricketer is England. Condition is totally different. Weather changes so fast you have to adjust. That’s why we always used to say every cricketer must play 1-2 seasons in English county. But nowadays they don’t get the chance to play, so it’s tough for experienced players too if you are not used to those conditions.”
Kapil said though the team would miss the experienced but injured Zaheer’s presence, it will have to do with whatever resources it has.
“We will miss Sunil Gavaskar also, Sachin (Tendulkar) also, Virender Sehwag also. When somebody reaches that level we always miss him. You miss him for hundred years. What is more important is to manage with the team we have.”