Recently, during the first Test between England and West Indies a stats on bowling performances by fast bowlers from across the world caught everyone’s attention, as Indian fast bowlers topped the standing with best strike rate among fast bowlers from across all the nations.
These was not always true of Indian cricket or its fast bowlers.
Through the sixties and seventies, tearaway quicks were akin to exotic birds in India.
Our bowling was overtly spin-reliant in the seventies, to the extent that we even ventured into overseas tours with Bedi, Prasanna, Chandrashekhar and Venkataraghavan as their bowling mainstays.
Not until Kapil Dev burst onto the scene, Indian spinners held sway while the likes of Eknath Solkar and Syed Abid Ali rolled their arms over with the new ball. Their job was essentially to take the shine off the new ball so that the spin quartet can come into play.
However, it was from the early eighties when India came to add more quickish seamers or medium pacers into their mix.
We went into the 1981 World Cup with a clutch of useful bowling all-rounders in Madan Lal, Roger Binny and even Mohinder (Jimmy) Amarnath with his slow medium stuff.
These all-rounders were key to us upsetting the odds and lifting the trophy, beating defending champions West Indies in the final.
MRF Pace Foundation and the break-through
However, it was through the formation of the MRF Pace Foundation in 1987 that India were on their way to producing more fast bowlers. And, two of their best products, Javagal Srinath and Venkatesh Prasad, became our strike bowlers through the nineties and early 2000s.
Under the able tutelage of Aussie legend Dennis Lillee, they honed their skills and became our bowling mainstays.
The mantle thereafter passed to Zaheer Khan, Asish Nehra and Ajit Agarkar, who ran through teams with their sharp swing and pace.
However, it was under Virat Kohli that fast bowling came to be seen as the key to winning more overseas matches. The accent was on fitness and making our quick bowlers leaner and meaner so that they can bowl longer spells in the longest format.
Riding on our fast bowling arsenal, we became the number one Test team, recording memorable overseas wins. The Test series wins against Australia and West Indies are among our most recent accomplishments in the longest format.
In Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Shami, Ishant Sharma, Bhubaneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav, we have arguably the best fast bowling pack currently. And with the likes of Navdeep Saini, Md. Siraj and Prasidh Krishna waiting in the wings, even our second line is enviable.
Fast bowlers in the charge
And former England off-spinner Graeme Swann echoed the sentiment when he recently said that the Bumrah-led Indian bowling attack has the ability to bowl out any side cheaply.
Now a commentator, Swann watched in awe as Bumrah, Shami and Ishant terrorised the Windies and helped India inflict a Test whitewash on them last year. The quick bowlers accounted for 33 of the 40 wickets to fall in the two-match Test series.
“I thought it was incredible and I saw at the time, this Indian team right now would bowl any team in the world cheaply with this bowling attack. The way they’re bowling right now, it’s incredible,” the former England off-spinner said.
Expanding more on his admiration for the Indian pace attack, Swann said, “England were playing the Ashes, they wouldn’t have watched it. We were there and that was an Indian team, an Indian bowling attack in unbelievable form. Jasprit Bumrah was in incredible form in that series.”
The Indian fast bowlers have won praise from former cricketers and rival teams in the way they ran through batting line-ups even on placid surfaces.
It was, indeed, rare as gold dust to see the likes of Starc and Cummins outgunned and outclassed in their own backyard by Bumrah and gang.
While Kohli has credited India’s recent wins to the mean fast bowling attack, even coach Ravi Shastri has been fulsome in praise, saying hunting in pack has been the key to India’s success.
Let’s hope our quick men keep firing on all engines and win us more overseas games going forward.