In Indian cricket, net bowlers are a new kind of fast bowler. Many fast bowlers have recently been picked by national selectors for visits to Australia and England. In the previous half-century, there have also been instances of a couple of fast bowlers going with the official squad for away and, on rare occasions, home series.
When Kapil Dev was the Indian coach, Ajit Agarkar and Harvinder Singh Sodhi were brought in to bowl in the nets before a Test match at the Motera in Ahmedabad. Because the team management had not obtained permission from the then-BCCI Secretary, this did not sit well with the BCCI.
JY Lele, to take Agarkar and Sodhi to Ahmedabad for Test preparation, with the players agreeing to cover the cost of the pre-Test training days.
Things have changed over time, maybe for the better, with team management trying to control the workload of the best fast bowlers in the world, who can bowl in both Test and white-ball forms. The net bowlers are believed to be on the cusp of national selection after excelling in domestic competitions and for India's 'A' teams, according to their description. The Indian team also thinks that the visiting net bowlers are considerably superior to the local net bowlers provided for practice sessions by the respective counties or provinces.
The BCCI's and the team's new strategy encourages net bowlers to impress the captain, assist the best batsmen during net sessions, and even get called up for a Test or white-ball match if circumstances allow. T Natarajan, a left-arm seamer who travelled to Australia as a net bowler and replaced the injured Jasprit Bumrah in the last live Test cricket match at Sydney, is one example.
The BCCI picked fast-medium pacers Avesh Khan, Prasidh Krishna, and Arzan Nagwaswalla as reserve players/net bowlers for the current Test series in England.
For the ICC Men's T20 World Cup, which will be held in the UAE from October 17 to November 14, the net bowler idea has been carried over. Avesh Khan, Harshal Patel, and Umran Malik have been picked as fast bowlers simply on the basis of their pace in a few matches for Sunrises Hyderabad in the present IPL season 14.
The IPL has provided opportunities for virtually unknown bowlers to impress selectors as well as those who matter, such as India's captain. With 32 wickets in the Twenty20 league, Harshal had his greatest season in nine years of sweat and toil, and he has been called up to the net bowler category. Harshal has 78 wickets at a strike rate of 23.18 and an average of 8.58 per over from 63 IPL live T20 matches.
The IPL has served as a stepping stone for many players looking to break into the competitive realm of international cricket. Except for Shardul Thakur (at the cost of left-arm spinner Axar Patel), none of the players have pushed their way into the India 15 for the World Cup. However, several have gotten closer by being selected from a pool of players gathered in the UAE to assist the squad prepare for the Twenty20 big bash. Venkatesh Iyer, a batsman, and Karn Sharma, a leg spinner, are on the list.
This year, India will face New Zealand and South Africa, as well as a full home series in the first quarter of 2022, and certain members of the eight-man preparation group will get the opportunity to play for India in one of the game's forms.
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