Since India toured the West Indies in 2016, the performance of the team has been on an upward curve. But for once, the domination of the Indian team is not attributed to just its batting or spin bowling. Yes, India has had scintillating batting performances from the collective unit and some stellar innings from individuals. Also, the spin duo of Ashwin and Jadeja have created havoc for the opposition in tests. They have even shared the No.1 bowler spot in Test Cricket. In ODIs, despite their inexperience, the likes of Chahal, Kuldeep, and Axar have bamboozled the opposition batsmen.
Despite these performances, the best thing in Indian Cricket right now is the rise of its fast bowling contingent. India has always had breathtaking batsmen, right from Sunil Gavaskar to the fab 4 of Indian cricket. India has always had high-quality spinners too, from Bishan Singh Bedi to Harbhajan and Anil Kumble. What an Indian cricket fan has never seen is a group of high-quality pacers who consistently perform.
The Indian Pacers:
For years, we have seen Indian pacers burst onto the scene with swing and pace. We have seen these bowlers trouble the opposition batsmen for a period of time. But as time goes on, we also have seen them become more docile. The out and out fast bowlers become gentle seamers who are capable of creating magic only when the pitch assists them extensively. We have also seen them fall off as a few series go by and soon lose their spot in the team to younger talents who later pass on the baton to the next set of bowlers.
This is the first time that we are seeing consistent performances from the seamers for a sustained period of time. Their performance in both test cricket and limited overs format has been exceptional. They have almost always been more threatening than their counterparts in the opposition. Considering the fact that they have played Australia, South Africa, England and New Zealand, countries with a rich fast bowling culture, this is an exceptional feat.
The start of a new era:
If we observe carefully, the turnaround happened when Virat took over as the full-time test captain and won the series from behind in Sri Lanka in 2015. One of the reasons for this change is the captain himself. For years in India, fitness wasn’t a priority. While the batsmen can get away with it to a certain extent, it impacted the bowling unit. Now, with the change in fitness requirements, it has become the first priority for all players. This has had a massive impact. The seamers are able to bowl quicker and for longer durations of time. They are able to produce the match-winning spells with the ball in the first few overs and also in the last. It is visible that the intensity is the same whether it is their 1st over or their 30th.
Another factor to take into consideration is the IPL and the impact of the overseas seamers. For a budding fast bowler in India, it will be of immense help to share the dressing room with bowlers who dominate the International circuit. They learn the tricks of the trade from the best in the world. The young fast bowlers compete with the best in the world. They learn how to improve their skills by observing the best in the world. If an Indian seamer is ready to put in the hard work, he has all the information he needs to become the best bowler in the world.
The era where Indian fast bowlers are just as good, if not better than the opposition has begun. The most refreshing thing about this is the fact that it is not dependent on a couple of bowlers. Whoever steps in has performed exceedingly well and has made sure the team does not miss any particular bowler. Everyone in the group has the capacity to put in the performances required and they have a healthy competition amongst themselves for a spot in the starting 11.
The Test Arena
The Indian team has looked close to unbeatable in the text circuit for a while now. Even though the batsman and spinners grab the headlines, this would not be possible without the pacers. In the venues India has played tests recently, the pacers needed to play second fiddle to the spinners and were required to chip in with a couple of wickets at the top. The Pacers though, have done a lot more. They have been there to take the important breakthroughs whenever required and have changed the momentum of the game in their short bursts.
The leading pacers in the Indian test team right now, Shami and Umesh Yadav have outclassed every opposition in front of them. Umesh Yadav has been the best pacer on show in the last few series from either side. His nippy pace and late outswing along with the newly gained consistency was a sight for sore eyes. Shami, barring his injury issues, has been lethal and consistent. Along with these two, India has also had the capable duo of Ishant Sharma and Bhuveneshwar Kumar. While Ishant has been consistent and the go-to 3rd seamer for team India, Bhuveneshwar has been used where there would be some assistance to the bowlers with the new ball. Even though they are the backup bowlers, Ishant and Bhuveneshwar have contributed immensely every time their services were needed.
The Limited Overs Circuit
Despite how great the seamers have been in test cricket, their impact is felt more in the limited overs circuit. India has always lacked quality seamers who could bowl with swing and pace up front and show their tenacity and restrict the runs at the back end. Currently, India has the best death bowling attack in the world. No Indian fan would have ever expected to say that about Team India.
In Bumrah and Bhuveneshwar, India has two bowlers who can bowl at speeds of 140+ kmph and also with swing. While Bhuveneshwar adds his consistency, Bumrah has the X-factor. Between them, they ensure the opposition have to earn every run they make. Once they are done wrecking havoc at the top, they also come back at the death and hit yorkers at will. This, coupled with their smart change of pace, makes them a lethal combination.
They have been instrumental in team India’s rise to the top in the limited overs circuit. Though there are other quality seam options, these two are playing in a different league right now. Along with Hardik Pandya, they might be the best seam bowling unit India has ever fielded in limited overs cricket.
It is said that batsmen win you matches but bowlers win you tournaments. The recent results of the Indian team have proven just that. Our only hope is that the pacers replicate these performances in the years to come. With the balance and X-factor provided by the pacers, the current Indian team has the capacity to dominate world cricket in all formats of the game for a long time.