Former India pace bowler Venkatesh Prasad had a very good start to his Test career, picking a five-wicket haul in only his second Test of career against England in Lord’s in 1996. Since his retirement, Prasad spent time as the bowling coach of the Indian team and currently is the bowling coach of KXIP in IPL.
Prasad was interviewed by dnaindia.com and here are excerpts from the interview.
Prasad said about the current fast bowling scenario that, “The current fast bowlers and also the upcoming ones are really good. Also, the fitness aspect of the fast bowlers is terrific. They are able to manage their fitness, manage their bowling loads. There is a lot of technology, a lot of management have come in terms of handling the players, especially the fast bowlers. With the IPL and playing in extreme heat in April and May, the strain on the body is more.”
Talking about the current crop of fast bowlers, Prasad called for Ishant Sharma to emerge as the lead fast bowler.
He said, “I would like to see Ishant be the lead fast bowler, not the second fiddle or the third pacer. Having played for so long, he did not stamp his authority. I hope this England tour could change his whole perspective and be the lead bowler.”
Prasad added, “He has got everything that a fast bowler needs. He has got the height, pace, and bounce. But, he is someone who has not adapted well to different conditions, venues and so on. He has probably stuck to the same back of the length, not using the conditions well. You need to change according to the condition. Maybe on a seaming track, you need to pitch slightly more up. He is not a three-quarter length bowler, he is a back-of-length bowler.”
“He is an inswing bowler because of his open sort of action. All I can say about Ishant is that he could not adapt. And that's probably a reason why the captain could not think of playing him in the 11 consistently. If you are the lead bowler, no matter how the conditions are, how the pitch is, you are the first choice. But a lot of the times, he has been the second or the third choice,” Prasad opined.
Prasad spoke about Bhuvneshwar and Umesh Yadav, “Bhuvneshwar has added a few yards of pace in his bowling. He was in the early 130s, now he is in the late 130s, 140 at times. That is more than enough for someone who can pitch the ball up and move it both sides. Umesh, with his pace, tends to err a lot on his length. Once he gets the line and length right, he is quite dangerous. He has got the nip off the pitch. Bhuvneshwar has great control with his swing because of his wrist position.”
When asked to compare Bhuvneshwar and himself, Prasad said, “I think he is much better. His control is much better. I had my limitations, and I knew my limitations. You have to understand the technical aspect of the batsman to extract his weakness. Bhuvneshwar keeps it very simple. He doesn't go overboard trying different things. Once he feels he is becoming predictable with his outswingers, he brings it in. You need to be smart.”
Prasad also spoke about Jasprit Bumrah and said, “The most important thing is the confidence the captain has in the bowler. And, Bumrah has really improved. It is very difficult to see where the ball is coming from with his action. He clocks about 140kph. That is pretty good speed. With all the understanding of one's strengths and being able to adapt to the pitch, if he is able to bowl in those areas, he can trouble the batsman even in the longer format. There will be days when he has to bowl 18 overs, and again come back to bowl 10-15 overs the next day. Would he be able to do that? Again, would he be able to bowl in the second innings, and then in the next Test? The pace he generates is in the delivery stride and the shoulder. There is going to be a lot of stress on his shoulder and his back.”
When asked to rate the England and India pace bowling attacks, Prasad said, “I don't see much of a difference but the English bowlers are slightly ahead. They have the home advantage. They know the pitches, and are probably much more professional in their approach. We need 300 runs every innings. That will give some confidence to the bowlers to try that extra bit, whether it is pace, movement or bowling it up to the batsman to drive it and have that extra slip.”
Venkatesh Prasad has worked with Virat Kohli in RCB and says about him, “This series will be a huge test for Kohli not just as a batsman but as a leader. He had not been effective in England the last time around. Obviously, Kohli will be looking to prove himself as a batsman. If he is not able to score, how that will affect his leadership. It is a test of his leadership skill and ability to perform individually. There is going to be added pressure on him. If he scores runs, he will be a completely different leader. Fitness has played a huge role in his concentration and ability to play a long innings. He needs to take that confidence into the series.”
Prasad also had good words for Ashwin, “He reads the game really well. You cannot keep Ashwin out of the Test team. He is a classical Test match player, very smart, intelligent, understands his own game. He tries too many things, but he is someone who is able to do that and control that. Now, having spent time in the last IPL with Kings XI Punjab, we had wonderful conversations.”