The problem though, is that if one of the front line pacers gets injured, India will have a difficult time finding a replacement. Ishant Sharma, making a comeback to the Test side after an ankle injury, is out with a viral fever while the rest of the potential candidates are all currently down with injuries and haven't played Test cricket in almost a year if not longer.
The latest additions to the growing injury list of medium pacers with Test-match experience are Karnataka's strike bowlers R Vinay Kumar and Abhimanyu Mithun. The bowlers already on the list include Praveen Kumar, RP Singh, Munaf Patel, S Sreesanth, Irfan Pathan and the uncapped but promising Varun Aaron.
The aforementioned bowlers, expect for Aaron, have played a total of 74 Tests but none of them are currently in the reckoning — considering their current lack of fitness — if the need arises for their inclusion in the second Test to be played in Mumbai from November 23. Bengal's Ashok Dinda, selected as a back-up for Sharma, hasn't yet played a Test match.
The nature of the injuries vary — from Vinay's sore hamstring to Mithun's back strain to Praveen Kumar's elbow to injured knees for RP Singh, Irfan Pathan and Munaf Patel and Sreesanth's toe — and in turn rules them out for the third round of the Ranji Trophy, if not for subsequent matches too.
Praveen, who led the Test attack as recently as during India's tour of England, has subsequently endured a horror run with injuries (to his ankle, elbow and rib), missing tours of Australia and several other limited overs engagements too. On Friday, Praveen watched his Uttar Pradesh mates train at the Bhamashah Stadium in his hometown Meerut, but took no part in the Group B game which started on Saturday. Praveen played the first game against Delhi at Ghaziabad yet the signs were not good when he bowled just four overs in the second innings. A recurrence of a previous injury, similar to the tennis elbow which kept him out of India's World Cup-winning squad, cut short his involvement.
His Uttar Pradesh teammate RP Singh was at the pre-season camp in Kanpur but did not feature in the first two rounds of the Ranji Trophy, still undergoing rehabilitation for a right-knee injury. Singh had a forgettable return to Test cricket and went wicket-less when he had replaced an injured Praveen at the Oval. Like in the case of Singh, the Oval Test was Sreesanth's last. Since then he has largely been undergoing rehabilitation for a toe injury. The 29-year-old medium-pacer is yet to play a first class game this season.
Pathan's comeback to international cricket in ODIs and T20s was going well till he injured his knee playing for Baroda against Karnataka in the first round of the Ranji Trophy. Pathan missed both of Baroda's matches after that, including the current one against Delhi at the Feroz Shah Kotla, and is likely to miss at least another two rounds.
Uttar Pradesh are hoping to field both Praveen and RP Singh in their next game versus Baroda, hoping the 10-day break between rounds will give the team management time to plan their comebacks.
Pathan will take a little longer before he plays his next first class game. "I should be fine in about three weeks," Irfan said on Friday. "I had to dive while batting in order to make my ground and injured my knee in the process. I will be going to the National Cricket Academy next week as adviced by the physio," Irfan added.
Better player management
Former India bowling coach Venkatesh Prasad believes that the fact that some of the fast bowlers who have played Tests have been out of action for a long time means that a better player-management system is required.
"I am not advocating that fast bowlers play less number of games because I believe that the more you bowl the better you become but load management can help them manage their bodies better and also help them understand the true nature of their injuries. Also I think fast bowlers these days are not ready to push the threshold limit of pain and even if they have a minor niggle they opt to sit out of a game rather than play with a bit of pain. A fast bowler is bound to suffer minor niggles but that does not mean they do not play an important match," Prasad said.
He also had a word of advice for bowlers trying to make a comeback to the national side. "Players trying to return to international cricket must give priority to first class games, including the Ranji Trophy and Duleep Trophy. Perhaps in the past, selectors have picked players based on their performance in T20 cricket but when it comes to fast bowlers first class cricket should be the priority."
R Vinay Kumar: Sore hamstring
Abhimanyu Mithun: Back strain
Praveen Kumar: Injured elbow
RP Singh: Injured knee
Irfan Pathan: Injured knee
Munaf Patel: Injured knee
Sreesanth: Injured toe