India will be without Praveen Kumar's control and two-way swing in the ICC World Cup. Santhakumaran Sreesanth is the replacement for the Uttar Pradesh paceman who has failed to recover in time from his elbow injury.
Will the absence of Praveen adversely impact India's campaign in the premier ODI competition?
Sreesanth is a capable bowler. This is particularly true in the Test match arena where his greater speed and threatening natural out-swing have posed searching questions to the batsmen. His wrist and seam position is exemplary and the lovely flow in his bowling is hard to ignore. When Sreesanth finds rhythm, he can sting.
But then, the delivery swinging away from the right-hander is a lesser threat in the one-dayers, particularly in the sub-continent. With the cordon hardly in place, edges can fly thick and fast between gully and third man.
This is precisely why Sreesanth has struggled to find the right balance in the shorter versions of the game. The paceman has 75 wickets in 51 ODIs at 32.04. However, his economy rate of 6.01 is more than what India expects from a specialist bowler.
A different role
If picked in the eleven, his role in the Indian team could be much different from that of the man he has replaced. Given his lack of speed, Praveen had to be used predominantly in the first 20 to 25 overs. The absence of speed made him vulnerable in the latter stages of the innings. With Sreesanth around, Mahendra Singh Dhoni will have greater flexibility in the management of overs.
The 28-year-old Sreesanth, arguably, is more versatile. Apart from being a natural new ball bowler, he is better suited to operating in the end overs given his ability to reverse the ball. While the mandatory change of the ball after the 34th over has reduced the influence of reverse swing, it could still be a factor in the critical final five or six overs.
In the India-New Zealand ODI series this season, Sreesanth's four for 47 at Jaipur reflected his ability to bend the ball at the death; his yorkers were on target. In the earlier game too, at Guwahati, Sreesanth (three for 30) picked up two of his wickets at the conclusive stages of the innings.
Sreesanth can strike with the new ball, hunt for wickets in the often game-changing middle overs and provide thrust to the attack in the last stretch.
In the series against the Kiwis, Sreesanth bowled closer to the off-stump. While he denied the batsmen width, his out-swing and the in-swinging yorker assumed greater threat.
Actually, when someone such as Sreesanth operates to a fuller length, there is very less margin for error. The paceman has been working on his control; he comprehends precision will be the key.