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Ishant, Irfan and that guy called Praveen.

by Gaurav Sethi

Ishant doesn’t just have to look like a fast bowler to bowl like one. Beyond the flying hair and the Emirate on his chin, for me, it’s the Baba like calm in those eyes that sort him out. What we see when he bats to save the world. But it’s the whole package, and more so the peripherals that endure him to us.*

Possibly, that’s what makes it so hard for us to let go of Ishant – that, and the recurring memory of the spell at Ponting in Perth. The selectors had been locked in that spell for over three and a half years – then Ishant did not make the World Cup squad, and the spell was broken. Before that, Ishant was being served the you-will-fulfill-the-prophecy quota, match after match after match…

Not too long ago, we refused to let go of Irfan Pathan. If for Ishant it was Ponting and Perth, with Irfan it was first Waugh, Gilchrist and Sydney, and then the Karachi hat-trick. Irfan too, like Ishant, was asked often enough by the selectors, “ek aur khelega?” Which kid won’t play when asked to – no fraught cricketer in his right mind would instead go back to school and work on sorting out his action and head.

Both Irfan and Ishant made their debut when they were 18 and some. Uncanny but both have played almost similar number of tests, with similar returns: Irfan bhai’s bowled in 29 tests for his 100 wickets at an average of 32.26, where as Lamboo’s clocked 33 tests for his 106 wickets at 32.6.

Ishant has the calm, Irfan the glint in the eye. If I was a selector, who knows what I may have done – but the question is, when must we cut the cord with the dream, the dream of what-could-have-been?

It’s baffling to me, that only in this second-tier test series has Praveen Kumar made his test debut. In the last few weeks, the world has learnt for the first time that PK can swing the ball, apparently both ways and will be an asset in England. Before this, he was pegged down as an ODI-wallah bowler. Again, PK’s story traces back to Australia – 2 Man of the match spells (in his 2nd ODI and 1st down under, followed by a second in the CB Finals), over 3 years’ back.

In both finals, PK dismissed Gilchrist and Ponting.

While Irfan, until his reappearance with the Delhi Daredevils, was part of some cozy cricket memory, Ishant and PK are relevant today. Now if only the selectors can be as lenient with PK as they were with the I-men.

I suspect, PK will find it tougher to block his test spot. A fully fit Indian pace bowling attack in order of appearance reads as – Zaks, Ishant, Munaf/Sreesanth and then PK. In one-dayers though, his name should be inked after Zaks.

*for me, it's when Ishant refers to Zaheer as The Zaks.

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