ishant

Indian bowling attack has flattered to deceive over the years in overseas conditions and deservingly copped a lot of flak. They would often bowl those beautiful spells but not finish the job leaving the ardent fans yearning for more and thinking about what could have been.

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But the ‘Summer of 2018’ changed it all.

It will forever remain special wherein, particularly three fast bowlers turned the tables upside changing perceptions with performance.

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Relentless Ishant Sharma, phenomenally talented Mohammed Shami and the menacing Jasprit Bumrah have set a template this year which will need to be followed even by the next batch of fast bowlers.

India’s strength historically has been batting and it was expected to be the same with a good bowling unit to support them. Half way through the year, tables had turned, Indian bowlers kept the team competitive in overseas conditions and carried the faltering batsmen.

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I can confidently say, this particular bowling unit one of the best in the world and maybe one of the best India has ever had.  Before the Adelaide Test, maybe I would have said the same with a little hesitation, but not anymore. The hesitation would be due to the extremely helpful pitches that the bowlers got in South Africa and England.

ishan

I personally haven’t seen such bowling friendly services in a long long time. But, Australia was always going to be more challenging than most of the away venues. Australian pitches do have bounce and pace (at least they used to) but  there isn’t much lateral movement, both in the air and off the surface.

The propensity of the Kookaburra ball to lose its hardness and the seam early, does not help the bowlers’ cause either.  The last Test at Adelaide is one of the slower Australian tracks I’ve seen in a while. Keeping all these in mind, the effort from the Indian bowlers I thought was phenomenal.

The biggest ask of any bowler, on these surfaces is discipline and more often than not Indian bowling units in the past have been guilty of not bowling the right channels, consistently enough. Not only have this unit been disciplined, but have achieved without compromising on pace and movement. They clocked shade over 141 kmph on an average.

To put it in perspective, it’s been the fastest  by any Indian bowling unit in the past decade in SENA countries.  That was for those who are statistically bent, but what has impressed me the most has been the variety that this unit brings to the table and how far they’ve come individually.

Ishant has been criticised a lot in the past, and often rightly so. His natural length was on the shorter side, which works in limited overs cricket, but not Test matches.  He would beat the bat but not take the edge, would hit the pads, but wouldn’t hit the stumps.

His fitness and ability to bowl long economic spells kept him in the reckoning. I believe things changed for better when he was snubbed from white ball cricket, be it for India or IPL. Now Ishant was playing only one format, he could focus and make the necessary changes. Credit to him and he now looks and seems a different bowler. He bowls lot fuller and hence lot more edges and his wrist position is a lot straighter, and hence lot more movement.

Shami is a special talent and at times, it seems even he does not know how talented he is. It is difficult to find a better release in world cricket, straight upright seam, and ton load of back spin on the ball. Because of the back spin he has, he bowls with a heavy ball. Before the batsman realises, the ball hits the bat.

His other big advantage is how close he gets to the stump in his delivery stride, making the batsmen play more often than not, even a little deviation becomes lethal. But there were question marks about his fitness and temperament. He would either be injured or in the games he’d play, he blowed hot and cold.

I was quite certain that he wouldn’t play all the five Tests in England, but was pleasantly surprised to not only see him play all five, but bowl well consistently in every spell.

The most impressive bowler for me has been Bumrah. His selection for the South Africa series was a left-field decision. Very early in his Test career he made it evident that he’s lot more than the sum of his unusual action.

In his 1st Test, he bowled the ODI length which was on the shorter side and in the very next match, he made amends and bowled lot fuller.

In only his 3rd Test match he not only surprised Keaton Jennings with an in swinger, but also most of the cricketing world.

And after ten months and seven Test matches later, he’s my No.1 bowler in this team.

An argument could be made about the quality of the opposition in Australia. I do accept that this could well be one of the weakest batting unit that they’ve put out in a while but you are only as good or as bad as your opposition.