Trends Suggest Australia Need to Worry About Indian Pacers
Not just the Indian captain’s batting, Australia will need to watch out for the team’s pace attack as well.
Not just the Indian captain’s batting, Australia will need to watch out for the team’s pace attack as well.(Photo: The Quint)

Trends Suggest Australia Need to Worry About Indian Pacers

Virat Kohli has made such a reputation for himself as a batsman that wherever the Indian team goes, the spotlight is always on him.

The last time India toured Australia, Kohli made the home bowlers sweat as he smashed four centuries in the Tests, despite the fact that India lost the series.

But Kohli is not the only headache that they would need to deal with this time around.

In fact, Australia should worry less about dealing with the Indian ace batsman and more about dealing with the fast bowlers. The Indian pacers have bowled extremely well in the Test series in South Africa and England, and hence, look all set to conquer the series down under as well.

India in Australia... Then & Now

The last time India were in Australia—back in 2014/15—their pacers averaged a dismal 49.97, the second worst bowling average in their history of Tests Down Under. Their best average of 25.77 in the country, however, was recorded 40 years ago during the 1977/78 tour.

It’s true that conditions were pretty bowling friendly in Australia back in the 70s as compared to today, but an average of close to 50 is never acceptable for a team when the global average for visiting pacers has been 36.63 over the years.

Even the Indian pacers’ economy of 4.30 during 2014/15 tour was on the higher side as compared to visiting pacers’ global economy of 2.86 over the years. Not only that, there has always been a major difference between the bowling numbers of Indian and Australian paceman over the years.

In fact, they have struggled in Australian conditions ever since 1999/00 tour. Their average and economy has consistently been on the higher side over the past five tours. The only time they bettered their Australian counterparts by a wide margin was during the 1977/78 and 1985/86 tours. Since then, they have never been able to match the level of the Australian pacers and that has been the main reason behind their failures down under.

However, they may just better themselves this time around, as suggested by their recent performances in South Africa and England. It’s true that India ended up losing both series but the performance of the Indian pacers was quite refreshing to watch.

2018: A Solid Indian Pace Attack

Each of the Indian pacers – Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma and Mohammad Shami – brings something different to the table for India now.

There are only few bowlers in the world who can do what Kumar is capable of doing with the new ball. His ability to swing the ball both ways with equal precision is what makes him different from others.

Bumrah, on the other hand, has become a vital cog in India’s pace bowling attack in just two series. He showed in South Africa how his pace and the awkward bounce he generates with his slingy action, lands the batsmen in trouble more often than not. The seam movement and bounce he gets off the pitch is something that will help him in Australia as well.

Ishant Sharma’s bowling is more about control now and he has matured a lot in the last couple of years. He is the kind of workhorse that any captain would want in his Test lineup. He can deliver tireless overs on those batting friendly Australian pitches when the going gets tough against the batsmen. Ultimately, he always generates one delivery that would get the better of the batsman and gives India the breakthrough they need.

Shami is another wicket-taking option that India have in their arsenal. He is lethal both with the new ball and the old ball. On his day, he can tear apart oppositions single-handedly. If he can find his rhythm on those fast and bouncy Australian pitches earlier in the series, India will surely dominate the tour throughout.

This fast bowling quartet is probably on par with the South African attack which is the most lethal fast bowling unit in the World at present. Moreover, there is Umesh Yadav too, who can step in with equally venomous performances if one of the other Indian pacers breaks down.

Fast Bowlers in South Africa

It is worthwhile to look at the statistics of the Indian pacers in the previous two away tours. They averaged 22.48 in South Africa this year, the best numbers in their entire history of Tests in the rainbow nation.

They matched the South African pacers in their skills and fought against them valiantly. Even though statistics show that the hosts’ bowlers still had better numbers than their Indian counterparts, that quality of Indian bowling had never been seen before in the country. Moreover, the margin separating their numbers is much less as compared to previous years.

The above table shows how there had been a wide disparity between the performances of the Indian and South African pacers during various tours over the years. But the scenario changed completely in 2017/18 tour, during which the disparity between their numbers was the least. That shows the quality of the Indian pacers and how they have improved over the years.

2018 England Tour

Even in England, Indian pacers showed massive improvement as they recorded an average of 28.60 as compared to their average of 43.00 during their previous tour. That number came fairly close to matching the average of 27.21 from 2007 tour, which was again their best in 21 years of their Test history in the country.

These are positive signs for the Indian contingent and worrying signs for Australia at the same time. Kohli had given them a tough time with the bat single-handedly during the last tour. And it could be imagined what is going to happen with the kind of support India has in its pacers now. All of Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Mohammad Shami are different bowlers than what they used to four years back and that has been visible in the way they have bowled on their last two overseas tours.

Australian batsmen aren't having the best times in the absence of Steve Smith and David Warner either. And that makes them more vulnerable to becoming victim to the Indian pacers. Only time will tell what the outcome is going to be but it is sure that the Indian pacers are going to come up with high octane performances.

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