You need 20 wickets to win a test match. Even if your batters are scoring big points, you need your bowlers to take out the opposition. These were the words of Virat Kohli following one of the test matches recently.
It wasn’t something new or unique that he said or suggested. But, now an Indian captain can say those words and being confident to take the 20 wickets of the opposition in tests away from home speaks volumes about the improvement in India’s bowling attack over the years. recent years, especially the pace.
Whether it was in the days of Chetan Sharma or Javagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan and Ajit Agarkar, India has a quality bowling arsenal in its ranks. Bowling with a consistent line, lengths and precision used to pay off for their hard work most often.
But what India’s pace attack lacked all these years was a really fast bowler, with 10-15 extra yards. India has continued to seek that something more for a longer period than expected. And, as they used to play overseas tests in SEAN countries (South Africa, England, Australia and England) once every 4-5 years in the same country, the need did not seem urgent. for the spinners did the work at home as well as countries like Sri Lanka and the West Indies.
However, something changed, after the 2014 series in England in England, which India lost by 3-1. The only test India won in the Lord’s house was on the back of a mind-blowing fast and short bowling spell by Ishant Sharma that sent English batsmen racing one after another. He finished with 7-74.
Under, MS Dhoni, India had reliable spinners like Pragyan Ojha, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja to give them the breakthroughs. They continue to do so, which they provide even now. However, India did not have these reliable tailor-made bowlers to turn to, especially in SEAN countries. They didn’t have that zipper that was needed in away matches to take 20 wickets, which they rarely did at this time.
But when the leadership of the Indian test team passed to Virat Kohli in the 2014-15 Australian Series, the first thing he wanted to change for the Indian test team was their overseas record, that of SEAN countries. And, to change that, you needed a quality bowling attack capable of playing fast, consistent lines and taking wickets.
And, since then India has not looked back when it comes to their fast bowling stocks. Virat Kohli’s trio, coach Ravi Shastri and bowling coach Bharat Arun believed that they wanted to take the field out of the equation and play the best cricket to their ability in those 5 days, regardless of the conditions and the country in which they play.
And that thought just opened a new chapter in India’s performance in these four countries. Yes, the results have always eluded the men in blue, but some of them have started to fall in their favor as well.
Emergence of the rhythm attack
A great example of this change was the year 2018 when they played South Africa, England and Australia in the span of 12 months, all away from home. India lost to South Africa 2-1, but not before picking up the pace. India won all 60 South African wickets in the three-game series, 50 of which were won by stimulators alone. So much so that India didn’t even play a spinner in the last game in Johannesburg and it was the only game in the series they won.
Even so, they didn’t have a big tour of England and lost that streak by 4-1, but the promise only grew. And it finally paid off when India shocked Australia on home soil, beating them 2-1. And the trio of Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami performed again. It looked like they were destroying wood for fun. As Ishant took wickets with the new ball, Shami made the second inning his own, taking five wickets in the second innings left, right and center. And, Bumrah doesn’t need to be introduced, he’s just the kind of melon, X-factor workhorse India has been looking for, something Neil Wagner does for New Zealand day in and day out.
“We hunt in pairs”
Each of Ishant, Bumrah and Shami have won over 50 wickets each in test matches since 2018. And during that time, not just in the away test matches, at home too, against South Africa, Bangladesh , the pacers have made inroads whenever the mandatory team. It wasn’t like before where the captain had to look for options when the spinners didn’t get the required wicket purchase.
In a recent interview for BCCI.tv, speaking about the rhythm attack, Shami said that the secret to their success lies in each other’s strengths. “There is healthy competition between us, we managed to pick 20 wickets almost on all of our away tours and even at home in the Freedom Trophy (against South Africa) or the pink ball game against Bangladesh, our fast bowling group was effective. We don’t have a rivalry, we hunt in pairs. “
Shami’s latest line makes sense and perfectly sums up the success of this group over the past 2-3 years. Typically in test matches, quality bowling lines are those that have one effective bowler after another and not just one or two, which the captains have to bring in over and over again to provide them with the breakthrough. But, every three or every time Umesh Yadav plays they all get dangerous like they said, like their coach said, took the slots out of the equation and keep bowling in the right areas. consistently and reaped the rewards.
The test against Australia
Today India returns to Down Under after two years and faces a team similar to theirs in a month’s time.
With folks like Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, James Pattinson and Nathan Lyon in the ranks, Australia have an equally formidable bowling attack and with Steve Smith, David Warner back and digging up a gem in Marnus Labuschagne, Australia looks as good as a test side like any other in the world. And, it will be difficult for India to replicate its 2018 success.
However, cricket pundits and pundits believe India has a chance against the Australians not because of the strike but because of their bend attack. And that?