In A Role Reversal, India’s Pacers Destroy While Spinners Support
Ishant Sharma (left), Mohammed Shami (centre) and Umesh Yadav have taken 35 wickets among themselves in the two-match Bangladesh Test series.
Ishant Sharma (left), Mohammed Shami (centre) and Umesh Yadav have taken 35 wickets among themselves in the two-match Bangladesh Test series.(Photo: Altered by The Quint)

In A Role Reversal, India’s Pacers Destroy While Spinners Support

From being lions at home and lambs abroad to now beating the rivals in their own game with genuine pace and swing, the revolution of the Indian Test team has been accompanied by plenty of jaw-dropping moments in the last few years.

Shifting from batsman-worshipping to now gasping at every peach bowled by a quick, the changing trends in reactions of the fanatics goes a long way in deciphering which way the Indian team is headed.

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Ishant Sharma was awarded the Man-of the-match award for the Pink-Ball Test.
Ishant Sharma was awarded the Man-of the-match award for the Pink-Ball Test.
(Photo: BCCI)

A glance at a few stats might explain this shift a tad better.

This season, the Indian team under Virat Kohli have played seven Test matches, with two of them being held in West Indies and the remaining five in India.

Such has been the dominance of the Indians that of the 35 days of possible cricket (seven Tests, five days each) they have taken the field for only 26 days, battering and bruising the opponents in the process.

Of the 14 completed innings by their rivals this season, only 5 times have they been able to cross the 200-run mark. What makes it even more brilliant is that it has not been the spinners but the quicks behind it all.

Of the 135 wickets to fall in this interim, 92 have been picked up by fast bowlers, with only 43 going to the slower bowlers. At home, 37 scalps have gone to the spinners while 59 batters have been dismissed by the faster bowlers.

Mohammed Shami seen here talking with the Indian bowling team coach Bharat Arun at the Eden Gardens.
Mohammed Shami seen here talking with the Indian bowling team coach Bharat Arun at the Eden Gardens.
(Photo: BCCI)

Yes, you read that right. The always-relying-on-spin-at-home Indian team have been led, not by the duo of Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja but by the guile and variations of Umesh Yadav, Mohammad Shami and Ishant Sharma.

Once considered inconsistent and bereft of venom, they have punched above their weight in conditions that might not be best suited for them, to return with showings that display the amount of hard work that they have pitched in with.

For the first time ever, the spinners have been reduced to watchdogs, even bowling just 7 overs in the second Test against Bangladesh at Eden Gardens; a match where none of the 19 rival wickets that fell went to a spinner.

From having the pitch as a major talking point when South Africa last toured India in 2015 to negating the influence of the wicket on their tour this year, the ability to win across conditions has been powered by the well-oiled pace battery, who have been juggling the different aspects of fast bowling quite efficiently.

All in the Absence of Bumrah

Ishant Sharma (left), Mohammed Shami (centre) and Umesh Yadav on the eve of the Pink-Ball Test at Eden Gardens.
Ishant Sharma (left), Mohammed Shami (centre) and Umesh Yadav on the eve of the Pink-Ball Test at Eden Gardens.
(Photo: BCCI)

With seam movement, bounce, swing, length, pace, intensity and ruthlessness all in their arsenal, India’s fast bowling resources have been quelling any sort of resistance from the opponents.

Mohammad Shami with his skiddy pace and upright seam literally breathes fire with every delivery.

Umesh Yadav, who often warms the benches when Jasprit Bumrah is in the squad, left an immediate impact when he was called up for the second Test against South Africa with his reverse swing and menacing pace.

Ishant Sharma, who was often guilty of erring in his line and length in the first half of his career, has made up for lost time by regularly varying his pitches and hitting the right lengths to be as incisive as Bumrah.

Upon first glance, the Indian set fail to be cast in the pre-defined notion of fast bowlers of being tall, colossal, harsh and ever ready for a personal remark.

This bunch offers a smile when they are smashed for a six. Another smile in the event of a dropped catch. They seem so unthreatening that the batsman will hardly even realise when they have been set up with such care, accuracy and perfection. It’s all their guise.

Umesh Yadav with the pink ball at the Eden Gardens.
Umesh Yadav with the pink ball at the Eden Gardens.
(Photo: BCCI)

Against South Africa at Vizag on a benign track, the Indians showed the way by bowling fuller and hardly allowed the Proteas to get their eye in.

Shami extracted extra bounce from a track that had nothing to offer, while Umesh squeezed out all the movement from the pitch to bend the ball both ways to leave the visitors befuddled. The difference in the two sides was all too apparent, and it was later reinforced by senior player Temba Bavuma.

“The pitch was quite similar to what you get back in South Africa. I honestly found that it quite suited to our strength as a bowling unit. Their bowlers have been able to put us under pressure. It’s quite obvious in batting totals that we’ve been able to accumulate. They are obviously doing something we are not doing.”

Credit to Bharat Arun

Ishant Sharma (left), Umesh Yadav, and Mohammed Shami (right) with the Indian team bowling coach Bharat Arun (centre)  at Eden Gardens.
Ishant Sharma (left), Umesh Yadav, and Mohammed Shami (right) with the Indian team bowling coach Bharat Arun (centre) at Eden Gardens.
(Photo: BCCI)

And credit needs to be given where it is due. Away from the larger-than-life Ravi Shastri, bowling coach Bharat Arun has silently gone about his task, helping the team through the period of growth.

Since the overseas tour to South Africa last year, mild changes were brought in constantly, the rewards of which are being reaped presently. Other than brushing up on their technical skills, Arun has focused on their fitness as well, which was all too visible as one-over-after-another was sent down in the searing heat of Kolkata during the Day-Night game, where they bowled even the spinners’ share quota.

Kohli too applauded their commitment and stated, “Even in India, they are looking to contribute. It’s not like if it’s hot and humid, they gave up. They ask for shorter spells and they give their 100 percent. They have been brilliant.”
Ravichandran Ashwin seen at the nets with the bat at the Eden Gardens.
Ravichandran Ashwin seen at the nets with the bat at the Eden Gardens.
(Photo: BCCI)

With the pace attack blossoming into the world’s best, the spinners, who hardly have anything to offer, have slipped into the role of second fiddle.

Ravichandran Ashwin has not bowled 20 overs even once in an innings in his last three Tests at home, a huge drop from the average of 25 per innings that he would bowl in 2018 at home. He was seen shadow practicing his batting under lights at Edens before the Test began and hardly got a bowl.

That should be the official seal for the change in trend that has come over Indian cricket.

(Sarah Waris is a postgraduate in English Literature has taken on the tough task of limiting the mystic world of cricket to a few hundred words.)

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