The rise of Indian fast bowlers
Mumbai: The one silver lining in India’s humiliating defeat by South Africa in Cape Town was the performance of India’s fast bowling attack. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami bowled their “hearts out”, in the words of their captain Virat Kohli, to bundle out South Africa twice—before they were let down by the batsmen.
But this was not an exception. Fast bowlers have been the leading wicket takers in Test matches for India outside the subcontinent, and their share of wickets has been the highest in the current decade.
Pacers account for more than twice as many Test wickets outside the subcontinent as spinners, a Mint analysis of ESPNcricinfo data shows. In India’s last tour of South Africa in 2013, pacers took 18 wickets, three times as many as spinners.
In One Day Internationals (ODIs) too, pacers take more wickets than spinners when playing outside the subcontinent. The pace-spin wicket ratio in ODIs played outside the subcontinent reached its peak in the 2000-09 period.
It was in late 2000 that Zaheer Khan clean-bowled three of Zimbabwe’s tail-enders with yorkers, heralding his arrival as a star performer. The impressive performances of Khan, Ashish Nehra and Javagal Srinath powered India into the final of the 2003 World Cup in South Africa. In the final, though, they were ripped apart by the top-order Australian batsmen who posted a mammoth target of 360 runs for victory. The Indian team lost the match and returned home as runners-up, but not before the team and its fast-bowling squad had established a formidable reputation for themselves.
While pacers have been leading the charge abroad, their ability to take wickets on home ground has actually declined in comparison with spinners. This, perhaps, has a lot to do with the quality of pitches, which seem to be getting flatter.
Having more diverse pitches would not only give India’s fast bowling attack better chances of success but would also help the team prevent the kind of batting debacle seen in the first Test in India’s ongoing South Africa tour.