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The changing landscape of India’s pace bowling

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Bhuvneshwar Kumar…has caused havoc in opposition ranks with impeccable focus on pitching it right and generating swing © AFP

The rising confidence of Indian pacers is visible in India’s recent successful run. Abhijit Banare explores how these bowlers can continue to swing India’s fortunes despite lacking express pace.

Think of the most ferocious fast bowlers India has ever produced — those who can freak out batsmen. Chances are that Steve Bucknor would have adjudged someone leg-before by the time you could throw up some half-hearted answers. Just like every individual craves for what he doesn’t have, the absence of a good fast bowler has been constantly brought up.

A brief look at the past will reveal that India have had better bowlers who have achieved great success focussing on their line and length than finding the elusive pace of over 150kmph. Ironically, even the best pace bowlers have ended being egalitarian by losing their much-valued pace as their careers have progressed.

What really makes this topic interesting is the recent success stories India have scripted in the One-Day International (ODI) format, which has got a lot to do with the flamboyance of swing bowlers who have forced crucial breakthroughs right at the start. These aren’t any devilish bowlers who can run through any side. Their impeccable focus on pitching it right every single time has reaped rewards. The perception of India’s bowling being the weakest link is set to fade away as the pacers manage to strike as they have done in recent matches.

If there was one moment you could point out as a start for this story, it would be the debut of Bhuvneshwar Kumar. To be more specific, the first ball in his ODI debut which swung back in sharply dislodging Mohammad Hafeez’s stumps. A hardly-intimidating bowler, with wrist cocked behind and seam held upright, has allowed Dhoni more reasons to be happy in the first half of India’s bowling. With two new balls being used the scenario sets up beautifully with Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma, both of whom are capable of using it to their advantage.

Many may press for the fact that it’s early days for Bhuvneshwar, and there have been similar examples before as well with Praveen Kumar and RP Singh to name a few. However, pitching in the right areas and exploiting the early advantage ‘consistently’ is the point that can be highlighted in case of young Bhuvneshwar.

It’s these factors which should be nurtured and used as an asset rather than searching for the express bowler.

Why is it an asset for India?

The 2015 ICC World Cup is to be held in countries where the fast bowlers clearly have a lot to deliver. Ask Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav, who have had their own moment of glory in Australia. With such a safe haven, it makes sense to invest a lot of energy in bowlers who can make good use of the conditions. India have enough resources to test upon and prepare for such conditions. If you add Jaydev Unadkat, Mohit Sharma and Shami Ahmed to the mix, there’s lot to be positive about.

Attitude

Having discussed about a good pace attack, let’s move to the attitude of Indian bowling which bears a stamp of the MS Dhoni School of Cricket over it, where the bowlers have developed the attitude of winning matches under trying conditions. The Champions Trophy final is an example of that. The idea of just the batsmen leading India to victories is changing. The bowling attack is capable of pulling its weight as well.

Challenges

Though one can credit the bowlers for succeeding in two different continents under various pitches, there’s still a long way to go. There will be moments when the wicket offers no lateral movement and the bowlers will have to toil hard. Emerging successfully under such trying conditions will make India into a truly potent force. In this aspect the India A tour to South Africa will be the one to watch out for. Despite lack of experience, the pacers have stood up to the occasion with confidence.

(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)

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