Bounce, Pace, Reverse Swing, And Rewards - India’s Fast Bowlers are Breathing Fire On Dead Pitches
India has always been blessed with plethora of spin bowling options, and it one area of strength that has always been the team's clout other than batting.
From B.S. Chandrasekhar to Anil Kumble, and Harbhajan Singh to Ravichandran Ashwin, there has been no dearth of world-class spinners. The sub-continent has always been a breeding ground for the spinners and it has always produced the finest in the department.
Over the decades, India has relied heavily on spinners whether it be playing at home or overseas. The reliance only used to grow stronger at home - it was a case of dry, slow pitches, or simply put rank-turners, where ball used to start gripping and turning in the surface.
It was also a case of India producing decent fast bowlers, who struggled to get the ball moving or get the lateral movement on the dead surfaces.
Although, there have always been exceptions like Kapil Dev, Javagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan, and Irfan Pathan, but the struggle to have pace attack that can have an impact on home pitches has never really been India's forte.
Indian spinners have done the bulk of bowling, and scalped most of the wickets on the pitches. It is a theme that has been recurring and it has been the road map to success. Spin to win has been the mantra.
After Zaheer Khan's retirement, it looked like India's only swing arsenal wouldn't have an understudy, let alone a replacement of any sort. It was tough to find someone like Zaheer who could swing it both ways - on pitches that looked like a dead duck.
But surprisingly yet convincingly, India arguably has its best pace quartet in Tests in the form of Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami.
The team continues to rely on the spin trio of Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravendra Jadeja, and Kuldeep Yadav at home, but the impact of fast bowlers is hard to overlook. Not only have the fast bowlers played their part, they have also been among the wickets.
Ishant Sharma is the most experience among the current crop of Indian bowlers and is now 94 Tests old. He is closing in on 300 wickets and has been one of the finest servants of Indian cricket. He has been a regular in the longest format and has put in consistently good performances over years.
Another of the quicks in Umesh Yadav has always been around, but he has failed to perform to his potential consistently.
He has the pace to burn, but has struggled to hit the right channels. When he is on song, he is more than handy with the ball. He can also reverse it, and he has shown it on multiple occasions how he can get the old ball dancing.
He has played the second fiddle very well, with Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah leading the bowling attack for India. Bhuvneshwar, Bumrah and Shami are the most skilled of pacers to come through in the last few years.
While Shami made his Test bow in 2013, Bumrah made his entrance to white ball cricket in 2018, and Bhuvneshwar in 2013.
The duo of Shami and Bumrah have all the skills in the book - pace, ability to get the ball swinging both ways, get the ball to reverse, and bounce out the batsmen. Bhuvneshwar Kumar is more about swing and getting it in the right corridor.
They have been very good overseas, but they have replicated similar impact on the home soil. 2018 was an outstanding year for Indian fast-bowling.
Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav combined to pick up 158 wickets in the 11 overseas Tests India played.
The return is astonishing, and a testament to the rapid strides made by Indian pacers, and the influence has been revering. It could be argued that overseas pitches always assist pace bowlers, and that's why Indian pacers have been so successful.
But the impact of Indian pacers at home has soared over the past two seasons. In the ongoing series against South Africa, Mohammed Shami took a five-wicket haul in the second innings.
It was for the first time in 23 years that an Indian pacer had got a five-fer in a home Test in the second innings.
Shami’s mastery over reverse swing has been one of the big plus points for the Indian team while playing on slow, unresponsive pitches like Visakhapatnam. The spinners might be get majority of the wickets but pacers are playing their role better than before and impacting more games at home.
Jasprit Bumrah, who is currently injured has also been influential in India performing so well over the last few years. In the short career of 12 Tests, Bumrah has 62 wickets at 19.24. That is a dream start.
The ability of the current Indian pacers to get wickets on slow decks makes them more deadly. It can be tough to get wickets on slow tracks for fast bowlers, but India's pace attack has shown great character and perseverance and reaped the rewards.
The pace attack is shining bright at home - a script never like seen before.