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India needs an all rounder

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    India needs an all rounder

    A casual glance at the composition of the Indian Test team shows that there is a conspicuous absence of an all rounder. Ever since Kapil Dev and Ravi Shastri quit the game, India has been unable to unveil an all rounder at Test level. While there are several all rounders or aspiring all rounder wannabes in the ODI side like Robin Singh, Vijay Bharadwaj, Sunil Joshi, Nikhil Chopra and Ajit Agarkar, none of them fit the bill at Test level.In the one day context, a batsman who can wheel his arm over and keep things tight or a bowler who can hit a quick 20 or 30 qualifies to be an all rounder. Or a bits and pieces player who can do both. But at Test level he must be both a strike bowler and a batsman who can be as dangerous as someone in the top order if not as consistent.

    There is no all rounder's slot as such in a team - only batting and bowling slots. The standard composition of a side in the game today is 6 batsmen and 4 bowlers. An all rounder in the side has taken one of the batting or bowling slots. Most all rounders break into the side as a batsman or bowler and then proceed to expand their range of abilities. The presence of a quality all rounder is not integral to a winning side but it most certainly is a value addition. The dominant West Indian side of the 80's did not have an all rounder. Nor does the current Australian side. Both relied on four man attacks which were sufficiently strong to dismiss the opposition twice. On the other hand the current South African side is almost exclusively powered by class all rounders like Jacques Kallis, Shaun Pollock and Lance Klusener who serve to shore up a fragile top order.

    The Indian team has no choice but to go into a match with six batsmen and four bowlers since there is no one who can combine both functions effectively. An all rounder in place of a specialist bat would give a fifth bowling option, so important to a side which has only three tested bowlers in Srinath, Prasad and Kumble. Indeed in the Ahmedabad Test against New Zealand India could not enforce the follow on since they had only four bowlers who were too fatigued to take the workload.

    Quality all rounders are not unearthed everyday. The number of all rounders in India's Test history can be counted on the fingers of both hands. In the early days there were men like C.K. Nayudu and Amar Singh. In the 40s and 50s we had Lala Amarnath and Vinoo Mankad. In the 60's Chandu Borde (until his shoulder injury in 1964), Bapu Nadkarni, Rusi Surti and Salim Durrani. In the 70s and 80s there were a host of figures, the most notable of whom were Kapil Dev and Ravi Shastri. Others included Karsan Ghavri, Madan Lal, Roger Binny (the latter two being better known for their ODI heroics) and towards the end of the 80s Manoj Prabhakar.

    The situation today is rather grim. These versatile customers have become an endangered species. India's resurgence as an all wicket cricketing power is closely linked to the discovery of at least one genuine all rounder.

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