Right after the series win Down Under against Australia, one would have heard many experts talking about the vast resources of the talent pool that India boasts of. Rightly so, in the last few years, with improved domestic structure and the IPL, there would be close to 25-30 players who can play for the team at the same time, or in easier terms, India can field two international sides at the same time.
This is what is happening currently, where a squad led by Virat Kohli is in England, for the Test series, whereas a ‘B’squad for a limited-overs series against Sri Lanka has also been announced. These are certainly unprecedented times for any team, perhaps in the history of cricket, where two equally able teams from a nation will be participating in events simultaneously.
But one question lingers on. Where is the next Kapil Dev, which India has been looking on for years?
This question is not that simple to answer. One will have to dig deep, to find a genuine fast-bowling all-rounder in the country after Hardik Pandya faded away rather quickly. The young Pandya showed a lot of promise in his initial years, both in the Tests as well as the limited-overs formats, but his body could not cope with the rigours of international cricket.
The result? Multiple injuries within a short span of time, which means he can’t bowl effectively anymore, and that rules him out for selection in Tests. Of course, he is only 27 and can work his way to become fitter, but that doesn’t look like happening for the moment, since Pandya hasn’t bowled much in limited-overs formats too.
In the past, India was lucky to be served by another Baroda all-rounder who enjoyed a decent run in the international arena and churned out performances with bat and ball equally. But it will be safe to assume that Irfan Pathan’s career too was rather unfulfilled. Though his stats in Tests tell us that he could have been the one for Team India. In 29 Tests, the younger Pathan had 100 wickets and scored 1105 runs at an average of over 31.
After the World Test Championship final loss against New Zealand in Southampton recently, skipper Kohli rued the absence of a genuine pace-bowling all-rounder, but his wait doesn’t seem to be ending soon. The options at his disposal are Shardul Thakur — who, though can bat, but can’t be called a genuine all-rounder.
The ones waiting in the wings are Shivam Dube and Vijay Shankar, who haven’t shown a lot of promise in the limited opportunities in they have got. On the other hand, in the domestic circuit, one can think of Kamlesh Nagarkoti — who is injury prone and hasn’t played a first-class match yet, or former Mumbai Indians recruit Digvijay Deshmukh. The latter has only one first-class match to his name but can bowl quick.
For now, looking at these prospects, India would have to wait longer and only hope that one of these players realise their true potential and set the domestic league on fire, to eventually make it to the Indian team. Having said that, it would be too early to set expectations on these players, who are even struggling to make it to their domestic teams for various reasons.
But in the meantime, India should look to invest in Shardul, who should be groomed as an all-rounder. The latter showed tremendous capability with the bat, in challenging conditions against the Aussies last year at the Gabba with his 60-odd. His performances with the bat could change India’s fortunes in overseas conditions, where they suffer due to their team combination of two spinners — R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, with the latter preferred for his batting ability.